The Galileo Project
site map

Turquet de Mayerne, Theodore

1. Dates
Born: Mayerne (near Geneva), 28 Sept. 1573
Died: London, 15/16 March 1655
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 82
2. Father
Occupation: Man Of Letters
Mayerne was the son of a noted Huguenot historian and political theorist, Louis Turquet de Mayerne. His mother, Louise le Macon was the daughter of Antoine le Macon, treasurer-at-war in the reigns of Francis I and Henry II of France.
No explicit information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Swiss
Career: French, English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Heidelberg; Montpelier, M.D.
He completed his early schooling in Geneva. He took his undergraduate degree at the University of Heidelburg. After travelling widely in Europe, he decided to get a medical degree. He matriculated at the University of Montpellier in 1591 and received his M.B. in 1596 and his M.D. in 1597.
On his first trip to England he was incorporated M.D. at Oxford (1606).
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist
Theodore Beza was Turquet's godfather. Turquet resisted efforts to convert him in France. Religion was the ultimate reason for his move to England following the assassination of Henry IV.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Iatrochemistry
Subordinate: Entomology
Though he was not a prominent scientific figure in his own right, he was influencial in the introduction and support of chemical therapy in medicine. After 1597, Turquet went to Paris and became the protegé of Jean Ribit [Riverius], his teacher at Montpellier and the chief physician to Henry IV. Both Ribit and Turquet endorsed the use of chemical remedies in their practice and fostered the training of apothecaries in the preparation of new medicants. Turquet gave lectures to whatever students would come, which included mostly surgeons and apothecaries.
His advocacy of iatrochemistry embroiled him in a bitter polemic with the Paris Faculty of Medicine. His opposition wrote the Apologia pro medicina Hippocratis & Galeni, contra Mayernium & Quercetanum, in which G. Heron, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, wrote a few paragraphs in support of the diatribe against Turquet and his colleagues. Turquet responded with a written defense of chemical therapy (also titled Apologia). Subsequent attacks from the opposition were instigated by Riolan Sr. and led to the censuring of Turquet. Since by 1603 Turquet had the position of a royal physician, the official censure of the Faculty did not effect his practice at court. However, he ultimately left for England.
He served on the committee that produced the Pharmacopoeia Londonensis in 1618.
He was the first in England to establish definitively the clinical study of medicine and recording observations as in "case studies."
The year after receiving a fourteen year monopoly for the production of distilled spirits and vinegars in London he published The Distiller of London. In 1644 he published Prophylactica, a set of precautions for the plague. Among his other writings are travel logs and a culinary guide to French cooking. In fact, Turquet did not contribute greatly to medicine, but after his death a number of his writings were published posthumously, especially Mayernii opera medica.
He was the editor of Mouffet's posthumous book on insects; the prefatory epistle indicates that he had considerable knowledge of the subject.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Patronage
Secondary: Schoolmastering
As Ribit's disciple he built up a successful practice that included many Huguenot nobles. On Ribit's death (1605) he took over their joint practice.
See above for the lectures he gave on the preparation of iatrochemical medicines.
In 1600 Henry IV appointed him to attend the duc de Rohan on his embassies to the courts of Germany and Italy, and upon his return he became a court physician which included duties as a medical officer in the Paris district. He enjoyed steadily mounting favor at the court.
In 1606 Turquet cured an influential Englishman of some disease in Paris. He was invited over to England and was appointed physician to the Queen. Whether Turquet remained in England from 1606 until the death of Henry IV is uncertain. After the death of Henry IV in 1610 at least, Turquet did move to England where he became the chief physician to James I. Turquet had a dazzling career in England and attracted high nobles to his practice.
With Henry Atkins, President of the Royal College of Physicians, he helped to establish the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.
Turquet served as chief physician to three kings. (After the execution of Charles I he was appointed titular physician to Charles II). He received £800 for his services to the King and Queen, a house, and benefits worth £1400/year. This does not include the many other clients he had outside the immediate royal household. In 1618 he bought an estate in Aubonne.
In 1638 he received a fourteen year monopoly for producing distilled spirits and vinegars in London. It is unknown if Turquet benefited from this monopoly since the business was not enrolled until 1658 and only received a livery in 1672.
8. Patronage
Types: Physician, Court Official, Aristrocrat, Government Official
He dedicated his Apologia of 1603 to Achilles Harlaeus, President of the Parlement of Paris.
Through Ribit's influence he became a royal physician. Turquet was chief physician to four kings. He also counted among his many clients several Huguenot nobles and in England court aristocrats. James I knighted Turquet in 1624.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology, Chemistry
Turquet endorsed and helped introduce Paracelsian chemical remedies. He brought calomel into use. He was the first to prepare mercurial lotion (black wash). He had a hand in the Pharmacopaeia Londonensis, 1618. About half of his posthumous Opera medica is devoted to a pharmacopoeia.
He also developed pigments and enamels, especially the purple necessary for carnations tints in enamels. Among his friends were several artists, Rubens, Van Dyke, Peter Lely, and Jean Petitot. He composed a manuscript treatise on pigments for painters.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Medical College
In 1616 he was elected fellow to the Royal College of Physicians. Upon his death he bequethed his library to this organization.
  1. Thomas Gibson, "A Sketch of the Career of Theodore Turquet de Mayerne," Annals of Medical History, n.s. 5 (1933), 315-26.
  2. William B. Ober, "Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne...," New York State Journal of Medicine, 70 (1970), 449-58.
  3. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 13 (under Mayerne), 150-2. William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (London, 1878), 1, 163-8.
  4. John Aikin, Biographical Memoirs of Medicine in Great Britain from the Revival of Literature to the Time of Harvey, (London, 1780), pp. 249-71. Eugène et Emile Haag, La Frence protestante, reprint ed. 10 vols. (Geneva, 1966), 7 (under Mayerne), 349-51.
  5. Allen Debus, The English Paracelsians, (New York, 1966), pp. 150-6.
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
Last updated
Home | Galileo | Biography | Chronology | Family | Portraits |
Science | Christianity | Library | About | Site Map | Search

Please note: We will not answer copyright requests.
See the copyright page for more information.