Fernel, John Francis

, or Fernelius, physician to Henry II. of France, was born at Mont-Didier in Picardy, in 1506, or as some say in 1497. He was not very young when he was sent to Paris, to study rhetoric and philosophy; but made so quick a progress, that, having been admitted master of arts after two years’ time, the principals of the colleges strove who should have him to teach logic, and offered him a considerable stipend. He would not accept their offers; but chose to render himself worthy of a public professor’s chair by private studies and lectures. He applied himself therefore in a most intense manner, all other pleasure being insipid to him. He cared neither for play, nor for walking, nor for entertainment, nor even for conversation. He read Cicero, Plato, and Aristotle, and the perusal of Cicero procured him this advantage, that the lectures he read on philosophical subjects were as eloquent as those of the other masters of that time were barbarous. He also applied himself very earnestly to the mathematics.

This continual study drew upon him a long fit of sickness, which obliged him to leave Paris. On his recovery he returned thither with a design to study physic; but before he applied himself entirely to it, he taught philosophy in the college of St. Barbara. After this, he spent four years in the study of physic; and taking a doctor’s degree, confined himself to his closet, in order to read the best authors, and to improve himself in mathematics, as far as the business of his profession would suffer him; and to gain time, he used to rise at four o‘clock in the morning, and studied until the hour when he was obliged either to read lectures pr to visit patients. Coming home to dine, he shut himself up among his books, until called down to table; and after dinner, he returned to his study, which he did not leave without necessary occasions. Coming home at night, he followed the same course he remained among his books until called to supper returned to them the moment he had supped and did not leave them till eleven o’clock, when he went to bed.

In the course of these studies, he contrived mathematical instruments, and was at great expence in having them | made. His wife, however, was alarmed at those expences, by which even a part of her fortune was wasted. She murmured, cried, and complained to her father, who was a counsellor at Paris. Fernet submitted at last, sent all his instrument-makers away s and applied himself seriously to the practice of physic. But, as visiting patients did not employ his whole time, he resumed the same office in which he had been engaged already, of reading public lectures upon Hippocrates and Galen. This soon gained him a great reputation through France, and in foreign countries. His business increasing, he left off reading lectures; but as nothing could make him cease to study in private, he spent all the hours he could spare in composing a work of physic, entitled “Physiologia,” which was soon after published. He was prevailed upon to read lectures on thii new work, which he did for three years; and undertaking another work, which he published, “De vensesectione,” he laid himself under a necessity of reading lectures some years longer; for it was passionately desired that he would also explain this new book to the young students.

While he was thus employed, he was sent for to court, in order to try whether he could cure a lady, whose recovery was despaired of; and having succeeded, this was the first cause of that esteem which Henry II. who was then, dauphin, and was in love with that lady, conceived for him. This prince offered him even then the place of first physician to him; but Fernel, who infinitely preferred his studies to the hurry of a court, would not accept the employment, and had even recourse to artifice, in order to, obtain the liberty of returning to Paris. He represented first, that he was not learned enough to deserve to be entrusted with the health of the princes; but that, if he were permitted to return to Paris, he would zealously employ all means to become more learned, and more capable of serving the dauphin. This excuse not being admitted, he pretended, in the next place, to be sick, and sent to the prince a surgeon, who was accustomed to speak familiarly to him, and who told him, that Fernel had a pleurisy, which grief would certainly render mortal; and that his grief was occasioned by being absent from his books and from his family, and by being obliged to discontinue his lectures, and lead a tumultuous life. The prince, giving credit to this story, permitted Fernel to retire. A man, Bayle observes, must be excessively in love with his studies, and a | philosophical life, when he employs such tricks to avoid what all others are desirous to obtain.

When Henry came to the throne, he renewed his offer; but Fernel represented, that the honour was due, for several reasons, and as an hereditary right, to the late king’s physician; and that, as for himself, he wanted some time for experiments concerning several discoveries he had made relating to physic. The king admitted this: but as soon as Francis the First’s physician died, Fernel was obliged to fill his place at Henry the Second’s court. Here just the contrary to what he dreaded came to pass: for he enjoyed more rest and more leisure at court than he had done at Paris; and he might have considered the court as an agreeable retirement, had it not been for the journeys which the new civil war obliged the king to take. Being returned from the expedition of Calais, he made his wife come to Fontainbleau: but this good woman was so afflicted at being obliged to leave her relations, that she fell sick soon after, and died delirious; and her death grieved Fernel to such a degree, that he died within a month after she was buried, in 1558. Fernel acquired a vast estate by his business. Plantius, his disciple and biographer, tells us, that while he was with him, his gains amounted often to above 12,000 livres a year, and seldom under 10,000. He is considered as one of the great restorers of medicine, and the first after Galen who wrote ably on the nature and cause of diseases. His posterity were long respected on his account.

His works are, 1. “Monalosph atrium partibus constans quatuor, &c.Paris, 1526. 2. “De Proportionibns, libri duo,” ibid. 1528. 3. “Cosmo-theoria libros duos complexa,” ibid. 1528. 4. “De naturali parte Medicinsr, libri septem,” ibid. 1532. 5. “De vacuandi ratione, liber,” ibid. 1545. 6. “De abditis rerum cau.njs, libri duo, 17 ibid. 1548. This work underwent nearly thirty subsequent editions. 7.” Medicina, ad Henricum II. &c.“1554. This collection has been still more frequently reprinted, with some changes of the title. 8.” Therapeutices universalis, seu medendt rationis libri septem,“Lugduni, 1659. 6.” Consiliorum Medicinalium liber,“Paris, 1532; many times reprinted. 10.” Febrium curandarum methodus generalis,“Francfort, 1577; a posthumous work. 11.” De Luis venereae curatione perfectissima liber,“Antwerp, 1579. dited by Gisselin, a physician of Bruges. Some other | parts of his works have been translated, or edited separately since his death. Eloy remarks, that as many thin 0-5 taken from the Arabian writers are found in the works of Fernel, and as the elegant Latinity in which he has repeated them is generally admired, the following bon mot has been applied to him” Fscees Arabuin melle Latinitatis condidit." 1


Bayle in Gen. Dict. —Moreri. —Haller in all his Bibliothecas. Blount’s Censura. Rees’s Cyclopædia from —Eloy.Saxii Onomast,