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Gerard, John

1. Dates
Born: at or near Nantwich, Cheshire, 1545 Jeffers says c.1545, but others give 1545 neat.
Died: London, Feb. 1612
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 67
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
Gerard was apparently connected with the Gerards of Ince, who were armigerous. Nothing is known about his father.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: No University
A grammar school at Willaston, Cheshire.
No university education.
Apprenticed to Alexander Mason, a London barber-surgeon with a large practice, 1561-8.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
By assumption.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany, Pharmacology
He published a catalogue of the plants in his garden in 1596, and a second enlarged edition of 1599.
Gerard published his famous Herball, 1597, (much of which was plagiarized, according to some accounts, from an unpublished translation of Dodoens Pemptades of 1583), the best known English herbal. Though obviously concerned with medicinal plants, it was not confined to them.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Patronage
Secondary: Scientific Society
Surgeon of a merchant ship, 1568-70s. All that is know is that Gerard recorded that he had been in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Poland, and Moscow, and it appears likely that he went there with a ship of the Merchant Adventurers. By 1577 he was married and settled in London with a surgical practice there. In 1577 he was already in the service of Burghley.
Superintendent of the gardens belonging to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, at the Strand, London, and at Theobalds, Hertfordshire, 1577-97.
Curator of the physic garden belonging to the College of Physicians, 1586-1603.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Gentry
He was granted a lease of a garden adjoining Somerset House by the queen-consort of James I and became surgeon and herbarist to James I.
See the relation with Burleigh above. Gerard dedicated his first book, the catalogue, and the Herball to Burleigh.
He dedicated the second edition of his catalogue, 1599, to Sir Walter Raleigh.
Note also that he owed his position in Barber-Surgeon's Company to Alexander Mason to whom he was apprenticed for seven years.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Medical College
Informal Connections: Frienship with Lancelot Browne, Guillaume Delaune, Anthony Hunton, Francis Herring and many others. He was acquainted with L'Obel, and he corresponded with Dodoens.
Barber-Surgeon's Company, 1569-1612. Court of Assistants, 1595. Junior Warden, 1597-1608. Examiner of candidates for the company, 1598, 1607.
Master of the Barber-Surgeon's Company, 1608-1612.
  1. C.E. Raven, English Naturalists from Neckam to Ray, pp. 204-7.
  2. QH26.R25
  3. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 7, 1100-1. Agnes Arber, Herbals: Their Origin and Evolution. A Chapter in the History of Botany, (3rd ed. (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 129-32. R.H. Jeffers, The Friends of John Gerard (1545-1612), Surgeon and Botanist, Falls Village, Conn., 1967). The book is dedicated primarily to defending Gerard from the charge of plariary mentioned above.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. B.D. Jackson, a life of Gerard in his edition of Gerard, A Catalogue of the Plants Cultivated in the Garden of John Gerard, (London, 1876).
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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