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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XV. The Progress of Science

§ 14. Other Great Physiologists and Physicians: Sir Theodore de Mayerne; John Mayow; Thomas Sydenham; Francis Glisson

Among other great physiologists and physicians, Sir Theodore Turguet de Mayerne (godson of Theodore Beza), who settled in London in 1611, has left us Notes of the diseases of the great which, to the medically minded, are of the greatest interest. He almost diagnosed enteric, and his observations on the fatal illness of Henry, prince of Wales, and the memoir he drew up in 1623 on the health of James I, alike leave little to be desired in completeness or in accuracy of detail.

Before bringing to a close these short notices of those who studied and wrote on the human body, whole or diseased, a few lines must be given to John Mayow of Oxford, who followed the law, “especially in the summer time at Bath.” Yet, from his contributions to science, one might well suppose that he had devoted his whole time to research in chemistry and physiology. He it was who showed that, in respiration, not the whole air but a part only of the air breathed in takes an active part in respiration, though he called this part “by a different name, he meant what we now call oxygen.”

Thomas Sydenham was one of the first physicians who was convinced of the importance of constant and prolonged observation at the bedside of the patient. He passed by all authority but one—“the divine old man Hippocrates,” whose medicine rested also on observation. He, first in England, “attempted to arrive at general laws about the prevalence and the course and the treatment of disease from clinical observation.” He was essentially a physician occupied in diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. When he was but 25 years old, he began to suffer from gout, and his personal experience enabled him to write a classic on this disease, which is even now unsurpassed.

Francis Glisson, like Sydenham, was essentially English in his upbringing, and did not owe anything to foreign education. His work on the liver has made “Glisson’s capsule” known to every medical student, and he wrote an authoritative book on rickets. He, like Harvey, was educated at Gonville and Caius college, and, in 1636, became regius professor of physic at Cambridge, but the greater part of his life he spent at Colchester. We must perforce pass by the fashionable Thomas Willis and his more capable assistant, Richard Lower, with Sir George Ent, and others.