Butler, William

, one of the greatest physicians, and most capricious humourists of his time, was born at Ipswich, about 1535, and educated at Clare-hall, Cambridge, of which he became fellow. He afterwards settled at Cambridge as a physician, without taking a medical degree. His sagacity in judging of distempers was very great, and his method of cure was sometimes as | extraordinary; he was bold and singular in his practice, and the oddity of his manners gave him a very great character among the vulgar, who conceived that he must possess extraordinary abilities. Mr. Aubrey informs us, that it was usual for him to sit among the boys, at St. Mary’s church, in Cambridge; and that when he was sent for to king James at Newmarket, he suddenly turned back to go home, and that the messenger was forced to drive him before him. We find he was consulted along with sir Theodore Mayerne and others in the sickness which proved fatal to prince Henry; and it is said that at the first sight of him, Butler from his cadaverous look made an unfavourable prognostic. The reputation of physic was very low in England before Butler’s time; hypothetical nonsense was reduced into system, not only in medicine, but also in other arts and sciences. Many droll stories have travelled down to us, of some extraordinary cures as strangely performed; for these the reader is referred to Winwood’s Memorials, vol. III. Richardi Parkeri, Sceletos Cantabrigiensis, Fuller, Prax. Mayern. p. 66; and Wood in his account of Francis Tresham, esq. He died Jan. 29, 1618, aged eighty-two, and lies buried in St. Mary’s church, in Cambridge, with an elegant and pompous epitaph over him. He left no writings behind him. 1


Granger.—Fuller’s Worthies.—Birch’s Life of Prince Henry.