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Davison, William

1. Dates
Born: Scotland, 1593
Died: France, 1669
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 76
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat
The family is described as rich and noble. However, the father died when Davison was young, and the mother was plucked by the tutor. Consequently Davison grew up admist constant legal conflict to the extent that when he was old enough he decided he would live elsewhere.
It is stated clearly that he lived in poor circumstances.
3. Nationality
Birth: Scot
Career: French and Polish
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Aberdeen; Montpelier, M.D.
Marischal College, Aberdeen, M.A. The M.A. was the basic degree in a Scottish university; I count it as equivalent to a B.A.
Possibly M.D. at Montpellier.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Iatrochemistry, Alchemy
Subordinate: Medicine, Astrology
Philosophia pyrotechnica seu cursus chymiatricus, 1635.
Elémens de la philosophie de l'art de feu, 1644.
In ideam philosophicam medicinae Petri Severini, 1660, a commentary on the Paracelsian chemist Severinus.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Medicine, Government
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Academia
Early on, in France, he appears to have been supported by the Bishop of Boulogne, Claude Dormy.
Beginning in 1626, when his patron Dormy died, Davison devoted himself to medicine, especially treating the Scottish nobility in Paris.
In 1636, he was physician to the English Ambassador in Paris.
About the mid 30's, Davison began to offer chemical instruction, which attracted both students and physicians from several countries.
Through the protection of Henrietta, Queen of England, he became physician to the King of France from 1644-1651.
In 1647 he was appointed to teach chemistry in the Jardin du Roi.
Appointed intendant to the Jardin du Roi, 1648-1651, a position he owed to the recommendation of Vautier, a powerful royal physician. He was confirmed in the intendancy in 1653, but fatigued by the bureaucratic struggles, he had already left Paris for Poland.
He won the favor of Queen Marie-Louise of Poland. He was physician to the royal family ("Senior archiatrus et chymicus"), 1551-67.
Director of the Royal Garden in Warsaw, 1651-67, a position he owed to the Queen.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official, Physician
Jean-Baptiste Morin, a medical astrologer, became his friend. He apparently introduced Davison to Bishop Dormy and later to the Queen of Poland.
He was physician to the King of France from 1644-51.
Queen Marie-Louise of Poland granted him the position of "senior archiatrus et chymicus" to King John Casimir and the Queen and the directorship of the Royal Garden in Warsaw in 1651.
In addition to the Polish royal family, he earlier had the patronage of the Bishop of Boulogne, Claude Dormy, who among other things allowed him to use his laboratory for chemical experiments.
Add Vautier, the royal physician.
(Source of patronage: Ambix, 9, 72-80.)
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal connections: a life long friendship with Jean Baptiste Morin; friendship with Claude Dormy.
  1. E.-T. Hamy, "William Davison, intendant du Jardin du Roi et professeur de chimie (1647-51), Nouvelle archives du Musée de l'Histoire Naturelle, 3rd Ser. 10 (1898).
  2. Ambix, 9, 72-80. QD13 A49 J.P. Contant, L'enseignement de la chimie au jardin royal des plants de Paris, (Paris, 1952).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Patricia P. McLachlan, Scientific Professionals in the 17th Century, Ph.D. thesis, Yale University, 1968.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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