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Lower, Richard

1. Dates
Born: Tremeer, Cornwall, late 1631 He was baptized on 29 Jan. 1632; Fulton, undoubtedly for that reason, places his birth in Jan. 1632.
Died: London, 17 Jan. 1691
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 60
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
Humfrey Lower came from an old affluent family. The family of Lower's mother was also prominent. Richard was the second son.
Clearly prosperous.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford, M.A., M.D.
Westminster School, 1643-9.
Oxford University, Christ Church, 1649-65; B.A., 1653; M.A., 1655; B.M. & M.D., 1665.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
By assumption.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Physiology, Anatomy
Lower was the leading physiologist in England after Harvey; he was especially concerned with the circulatory system and respiratory physiology. Tractatus de corde, 1669. He was one of the earliest to experiment with transfusion, from one animal to another. He saw transfusion as a potential therapeutic procedure.
De corde contributed also to the anatomy of the heart. Earlier Willis assigned to Lower primary credit for his work on the anatomy of the brain. The tubercle of Lower (in the brain) preserved his name.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Personal Means
Secondary: Academia
Lower stayed on in Oxford until 1666, though he resigned his Studentship in Christ Church in 1663.
He was a second son; I saw no reference to any inheritance. However, in 1666 he married a widow possessed of a manor, and at his death he passed it on to a daughter.
Medical practice, 1661-91, initially in Oxford, then in London, where he followed his mentor Willis in 1666. Lower's practice was very successful.
8. Patronage
Types: Physician, Court Official
Thomas Willis gave impetus to his early career. Lower was his assistant for at least ten years, and his first publication was a defense of Willis against an attack on him. Lower practised with him in Oxford, followed him to London, and eventually virtually inherited Willis' practice.
After Willis' death, Lower succeeded him as court physician. I'm not quite sure what this meant. Wood said he was much in favor at the court. Gotch and Fulton are explicit in asserting that he was one of the physicians who attended Charles on his death bed; a passage in Evelyn's diary appears to confirm this. As a staunch Whig, Lower began to fade at court after the Rye House plot, and he lost the position upon the accession of James. After the Revolution he advised the crown on the organization of naval medical services.
Lower dedicated his first work, Diatribae de febribus, 1665, to Boyle, who also introduced him to the Royal Society in 1667. He dedicated De corde to Thomas Millington. Boyle and Millington were both members of the informal scientific circle in which Lower functioned in Oxford. To be sure, Boyle was vastly more wealthy. Nevertheless these dedications do not sound like patronage to me.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
He discovered the medicinal water at East Throp (or Astrop) in 1664, and with Willis he promoted it actively.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Royal Society, Medical College
Informal Connections: Intimate friendship and cooperation with Thomas Willis, from Oxford period until Willis'death in 1675. This relationship belonged to the larger circle of the Oxford physiologists of the 50's and early 60's. He studied chemisty under Sthael in company with Wren and Millington and others of the circle.
Friendship and correspondence with Anthony Wood.
Royal Society, 1667. Lower ceased to be active in 1668 and resigned in 1678.
Royal College of Physicians, 1675.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 12, 203-4. Ebbe C. Hoff & Phebe M. Hoff, " The Life and Times of Richard Lower" Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 4 (1936), 517-35.
  2. K.J. Franklin, "Biographical Notice" in R.T. Gunther's Early Science in Oxford, 9, xv-xxix.
  3. John F. Fulton, A Bibliography of Two Oxford Physiologists, (Oxford, 1935). (See Oxford Bibliographical Society, Proceedings & Papers, 4 (1934-5), 1-62.) Francis Gotch, Two Oxford Physiologists: Richard Lower (1631- 1691), John Mayow (1643-1679), (Oxford, 1908). Biographia Britannica, 1st ed. (London, 1747-66), 5, 3009-10.
  4. William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (London, 1878), 1, 379-82.
  5. Anthony Wood, Athenae oxonienses (Fasti oxonienses is attached, with separate pagination, to the Athenae), 4 vols. (London, 1813-20), 4, 297-9.
  6. Robert G. Frank, Harvey and the Oxford Physiologists: A Study of Scientific Ideas, (Berkeley, 1980).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. K.J. Franklin, "The Work of Richard Lower (1631-91)," Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 25 (1931), Section of the History of Medicine.
  2. _____, "Some Notes on Richard Lower (1631-91), and his De corde, London, 1669," Annals of Medical History, n.s. 3 (1931), 599- 602.
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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