Gaddesden, John Of

, an English physician, who lived in the early part of the fourteenth century, of very | extensive and lucrative practice, was the first Englishman who was employed as a physician at court, being appointed to that office by Edward II.: before his time the king’s physicians had been exclusively foreigners. The ignorance, superstition, and low quackery, which appear throughout his practice; are painted with much life and humour by Dr. Freind. He came forward as an universal genius, was a philosopher, philologist, and poet, and undertook every thing that lay within the circle of physic and surgery, was skilled in manual operations, very expert in bone-setting, and a great oculist. He also acquaints us with his great skill in physiognomy; and designed to write a treatise of chiromancy. He was a great dealer in secrets, and some he had which were the most secret of secrets, and did miracles. But his chief strength lay in receipts, and without giving himself much trouble in forming a judgment respecting the nature of the case, he seemed to think that, if he could muster up a good number of these, he should be able to encounter any distemper. He seems to have neglected no stratagems, by which he might surprise and impose on the credulity of mankind, and to have been very artful in laying baits for the delicate, the ladies, and the rich. When he was employed in attending the king’s son, in the small-pox, in order to shew his skill in inflammatory distempers, he, with a proper formality, and a countenance of much importance, ordered the patient to be wrapped up in scarlet, and every thing about the bed to be of the same colour. This, he says, made him re-, cover without so much as leaving one mark in his face; and he commends it for an excellent mode of curing. Nevertheless this man was praised by Leland, Ovaringius, and others, as a profound philosopher, a skilful physician, and the brightest man of his age.

His only work, which he produced while resident at Merton college, Oxford, is the famous “Rosa Anglica,” which comprises the whole practice of physic; collected indeed chiefly from the Arabians, and the moderns who had written in Latin just before him, but enlarged and interspersed with additions from his own experience. Its title is “Rosa Anglica quatuor Libris distincta, de morbis particularibus: de Febribus, de Chirurgia, de Pharmacopeia.”. Dr. Freind observes, that John seems to have made a collection of all the receipts he had ever met with or heard of and that this book affords us a complete history of | what medicines were in use, not only among the physicians of that time, hut among the common people in all parts of England, both in the empirical and superstitious way. Dr. Aikin remarks that the method of producing fresh from salt water by simple distillation (“in an alembic with a gentle heat”) is familiarly mentioned by this author, even at so remote a period.

Although devoted to the practice of his profession, he was prebendary of St. Paul’s, in the stall of Ealdland. It seems probable from this and other instances, that the procurement of a sinecure place in the church was a method in which the great sometimes paid the services of their physicians. Of his “Rosa Anglica” there are two editions, one in fol. Venice, 1502, and the other in 4to. Aug. Vind. 2 vols. 1595. 1

1 Aikin’s Biographical Memoirs of Medicine. Rees’s Cyclopædia. Freind’s Hist, of Physic.