DIGBY (Sir Kenelm)

, a famous English philosopher, was born at Gothurst in Buckinghamshire, 1603. He was descended of an ancient family: his great grandfather, with six of his brothers, fought valiantly at Bosworth-field on the side of Henry the 7th, against Richard the 3d. His father, Everard, engaged in the gunpowder plot against James the 1st, for which he was beheaded. His son, however, was restored to his estate; and had afterwards several appointments under king Charles the 1st. He granted him letters of reprisal against the Venetians, from whom he took several prizes with a small fleet which he commanded. He fought the Venetians near the port of Scanderoon, and bravely made his way through them with his booty.

In the beginning of the civil wars, he exerted himself greatly in the king's cause. He was afterwards imprisoned, by order of the parliament; but was set at liberty in 1643. He afterward compounded for his estate; but being banished from England, he retired to France, and was sent on two embassies to Pope Innocent the 10th, from the queen, widow to Charles the 1st, whose chancellor he then was. On the restoration of Charles the 2d, he returned to London; where he died in 1665, at 62 years of age.

Digby was a great lover of learning, and translated several authors into English, as well as published several works of his own; as, 1. Observations upon Dr. Brown's Religio Medici, 1643.—2. Observations on part of Spenser's Fairy Queen, 1644.—3. A Treatise of the Nature of Bodies, 1644.—4. A Treatise declaring the Operations and Nature of Man's Soul, out of which the Immortality of reasonable souls is evinced: works that discover great penetration and extensive knowledge.

He applied much to chemistry; and found out seve- | ral useful medicines, which he distributed with a liberal hand. He particularly distinguished himself by his sympathetic powder for the cure of wounds at a distance; his discourse concerning which made great noise for a while. He held several conferences with Des Cartes, about the nature of the soul, and the principles of things. At the beginning of the Royal Society, he became a distinguished member, being one of the first council. And he had at his own house regular levees or meetings of learned men, to improve themselves in knowledge, by conversing with one another.

This eminent person was, for the early pregnancy of his talents, and his great proficiency in learning, compared to the celebrated Picus de Mirandola, who was one of the wonders of human nature. Yet his knowledge, though various and extensive, probably appeared greater than it really was; as he had all the powers of elocution and address to recommend it. He knew how to shine in a circle, either of ladies or philosophers; and was as much attended to when he spoke on the most trivial subjects, as when he spoke on the most important. It has been said that one of the princes of Italy, who had no child, was desirous that his princess should bring him a son by Sir Kenelm, whom he esteemed a just model of perfection.

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Entry taken from A Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary, by Charles Hutton, 1796.

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* DIGBY (Sir Kenelm)
DIGGES (Leonard)
DIGGES (Thomas)