Turner, William

, a very eminent naturalist and divine, was born at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and was educated under the patronage of sir Thomas Wentworth, at the university of Cambridge, where he was chosen a fellow of Pembroke Hall, about 1531. He acquired great reputation for his learning, and about 1536 was admitted to deacon’s orders, at which time he was master of arts. He applied himself also to philosophy and physic, and early discovered an inclination to the study of plants, and a wish to be well acquainted with the materia medico, of the ancients. He complains of the little assistance he could | receive in these pursuits. “Being yet a student of Pembroke Hall, where I could learn never one Greke, neither Latin, nor English name, even amongst the physicians, of any herhe or tree such was the ignorance of that time; and as yet there was no English herbal, but one all full of unlearned cacographies and falsely naming of herbes.

At Cambridge, Turner imbibed the principles of the reformers, and afterwards, agreeably to the practice of many others, united the character of the divine to that of the physician. He became a preacher, travelling into many parts of England, and propagated, with so much zeal, the cause of the reformation, that he excited persecution from bishop Gardiner. He was thrown into prison, and detained for a considerable time; and on his enlargement submitted to voluntary exile during the remainder of the reign of Henry VIII. This banishment proved favourable to his advancement in medical and botanical studies; he resided at Basil, Strasburgb, and at Bonn, but principally at Cologn, with many other English refugees. He dwelt for some time at Weissenburgh; and travelled also into Italy, and took the degree of doctor of physic at Ferrara. As at this period the learned were applying with great assiduity to the illustration of the ancients, it was a fortunate circumstance for Dr. Turner, that he had an opportunity of attending the lectures of Lucas Ghinus, at Bologna, of whom he speaks in his “Herbal” with great satisfaction; and frequently cites his authority against other commen* tators. Turner resided a considerable time at Basil, whence he dates the dedication of his book “On the Baths of England and Germany.” During his residence in Switzerland he contracted a friendship with Gesner, and afterwards kept up a correspondence with him. Gesner had a high opinion of Turner, as a physician and man of general learning, whose equal, he says, he scarcely remembered. This encomium occurs in Gesner’s book “De Herb;s Lunariis.

On the accession of Edward VI. he returned o England, was incorporated M. D. at Oxford, appointed physician to Edward, duke of Somerset, and, as a divine, was rewarded with a prebend of York, a canonry of Windsor, and the deanery of Wells. In 1552 he was ordained priest by bishop Ridley. He speaks of himself in the third part of his “Herbal,” as having been physician to the “erle of Embden, lord of East Friesland.” In 1551 he published the first part of his History of Plants, which he dedicated to | the duke of Somerset his patron. But on the accession of queen Mary, his zeal in the cause of the reformation, which he had amply testified, not only in preaching, but in various publications, rendered it necessary for him to retire again to the continent, where he remained at Basil, or Strasburgh, with others of the English exiles, until queen Elizabeth came to the throne. He then returned, and was reinstated in his preferments. He had, however, while abroad, caught some of the prejudices which divided the early protestants into two irreconcilable parties, and spoke and acted with such contempt for the English discipline and ceremonies, as to incur censure, but certainly was not deprived, as some of those writers who are hostile to the church have asserted, for he died possessed of the deanery of Wells. It would appear, indeed, that he had given sufficient provocation, but found a friend in the queen on such occasions. In the dedication of the complete edition of his “Herbal” to her in 1568, he acknowledges with gratitude, her favours in restoring him to his benefices, and in other ways protecting him from troubles, having, at four several times, granted him the great seal for that purpose.

Dr. Turner seems to have divided his time between his deanery, where he had a botanical garden, of which frequent mention is made in his “Herbal,” and his house in Crutched Friars, London. He speaks also of his garden at Kew, and from the repeated notices he takes of the plants in Purbeck, and about Portland, Dr. Pulteney infers that he must have had some intimate connections in Dorsetshire. He died July 7, 1568, a few months after the publication of the last part of his “Herbal,” and was buried in the chancel of St. Olave’s church, Hart-street, London, where a monument was erected to his memory by his widow.

Dr. Turner was the author of many controversial treatises, chiefly written against popery. Among these were, 1. “The hunting of the Romish 'Fox,” c. Basil, 1543. 2. “Rescuing of the Romish Fox,1545. 3. “The hunting of the Romish Wolf,” 8vo all these were published under the name of William Wraughton. 4. “Dialogue, wherein is contained the examination of the Mass,” Loncl. 8vo. 5. “A preservative, or triacle against the Poison of Pelagius, lately renewed and stirred up again, by the furious secc of the anabaptists,” ibid. 1551, 12mo. 6. “A new book of spiritual physic for divers diseases,1555. 7. “The | hunting of the Fox and Wolf, because they did make havock of the sheep of Jesus Christ,” 8vo. Tanner mentions a few other articles, and there are several of his tracts yet in manuscript, in various libraries. He collated the translation of the Bible with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin copies, and corrected it in many places. He procured to be printed at Antwerp a new and corrected edition of William of Newburgh’s “Historia gentis nostrse,” from a ms. he found in the library at Wells; but complains that the printer not only omitted certain articles sent by him, but left out the preface he sent him, and substituted one of his own. Our author also translated several works from the Latin, particularly “The comparison of the Old Learning and the New,” written by Urbanus Regius, Southwark, 1537, 8vo, and again 1538 and 1548.

His first work on the subject of plants was printed at Cologn, under the title of “Historia de naturis herbarum, scholiis et notis vallata,1544, 8vo. Bumaldus is the only writer who mentions this work, and it probably was not reprinted in England. It was followed by a small volume under the title of “Names of Herbes, in Greek, Latin, English, Dutch and French,” Lond. 1548. As his knowledge in natural history was not confined to botany, he published a treatise on birds, entitled “Avium praecipuarum, quarum apud Plinium et Aristotelem mentio est, brevis et succincta historia,” Cologn. 1543, 8vo. By a letter of his prefixed to Gesner’s “Historia Animalium,” edit. 1620, relating to the English fishes, it appears that he had no inconsiderable degree of knowledge in that part of zoology. But the work which secured his reputation to posterity, and entitles him to the character of an original writer on that subject, in England, is his “History of Plants,” printed at different times, in three parts, in fol. with cuts, under the title of a “New Herbal,” Lond. 1551, part first; part second at Cologn, in 1562; with this was reprinted the first part, and his “Book on the Bathes of England and Germany.” These were reprinted, with a third part, in 1568. Dr. Pulteney has given a minute account of the contents and progress of this work, and observes, that when we regard the time in which Dr. Turner lived, and the little assistance he could derive from his contemporaries, he will appear to have exhibited uncommon diligence, and great erudition, and fully to deserve the character of an original writer. He also paid early | attention to mineral waters, and to wines; and wrote on both subjects.

It appears that at one time there was a design of placing Dr. Turner at the head of Oriel college. Kennet mentions a letter to that college (1550, July 5) “to accept Dr. Turner for master of the same, appointed by the king;” but this appointment certainly did not take place. But from a passage in his “Spiritual Physic,” he appears to have been once a member of the House of Commons. Fox speaks of Turner with great respect, as “a man whose authority neither is to be neglected, nor credit to be disputed.” He married Jane, daughter of George Ander, an alderman of Cambridge, who after his death married Cox, bishop of Ely. In memory of her first husband, she left some money and lands to Pembroke Hall.

By this lady Dr. Turner had a son, Peter, who was a physician, and practised in London, and resided the latter part of his life in St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate-street, London. He died in 1614, and was buried near his father in St. Olave’s church, where there is a monument to his memory. He married Pascha, sister to Dr. Henry Parr, bishop of Worcester, by whom he had eight children, one of whom is the subject of the following article. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. I. new edit. —Pulteney’s Sketches. Ward’s Gresham Professors. —Strype’s Cranmer, p. 235, 274, 314, 357. Stryps’s Parker, p. 46, 151. Fuller’s Worthies.