Crooke, Helkiah (DNB00)

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CROOKE, HELKIAH, M.D. (1576–1635), physician, was a native of Suffolk, and obtained a scholarship on Sir Henry Billingsley's foundation at St. John's College, Cambridge, 11 Nov. 1591. He graduated B.A. in 1596, and then went to study physic at Leyden 6 Nov. 1596, where he took the degree of M.D. on 16 April 1597, after a residence of only five months. His thesis is entitled ‘De Corpore Humano ejusque partibus principibus.’ It consists of thirteen propositions, and shows that he had already paid particular attention to anatomy. The original autograph manuscript is bound in vellum, in one volume, with twenty-seven other theses and the treatise of John Heurnius of Utrecht on the plague. Heurnius was a professor of medicine at Leyden of Crooke's time, and the theses are those of Crooke's contemporaries on the physic line, and many of them have notes in his handwriting. He went back to Cambridge and took the degrees of M.B. in 1599, and M.D. in 1604. He settled in London, was appointed physician to James I, and dedicated his first book to the king. ‘Mikrokosmographia, a Description of the Body of Man,’ was published in 1616, and is a general treatise on human anatomy and physiology based upon the two anatomical works of greatest repute at that time, those of Bauhin and Laurentius. The lectures in which Harvey demonstrated the circulation of the blood were delivered in the early part of the same year; but no trace of his views is to be found in the ‘Mikrokosmographia,’ nor when Crooke published a second edition in 1631 did he alter his chapters on the heart, veins, and arteries so as to accord with Harvey's discovery. The book is a compilation, and its subjects are set forth clearly, but without original observations. A finely bound copy presented by the author was one of the few books of the library of the College of Physicians which escaped the great fire, and is still preserved at the college. At the end is printed Crooke's only other work, ‘An Explanation of the Fashion and Use of Three and Fifty Instruments of Chirurgery,’ 1631. In 1620 Crooke was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians, and held the anatomy readership in 1629. In 1632 he was elected governor of Bethlehem Hospital. It is said that he was the first medical man known to have been in that position. On 25 May 1635 he resigned his fellowship, and soon after died. His portrait is prefixed to the second edition of ‘Mikrokosmographia.’

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. 1878, i. 177; Volume of Theses in Library of Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London.]

N. M.