Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woodall, John

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WOODALL, JOHN (1556?–1643), surgeon, born about 1556, was son of Richard Woodall of Warwick and his wife Mary, daughter of Peirse Ithell of North Wales. He began life as a military surgeon in Lord Willoughby's regiment in 1591 [see Bertie, Peregrine], and afterwards lived abroad at Stoad in Germany, and, knowing German well, acted as interpreter to an embassy sent thither by Queen Elizabeth. He remained eight years in Germany, travelling also in France and in Poland, where he practised the cure of the plague. In 1599 he was admitted to the Barber-Surgeons Company in London, of which he became a warden in 1627 and master in 1633. He also spent some time in Holland, where he lodged with a Dutchman who lived by making counterfeit mithridate and Venice treacle, of which the former only contained nine simples instead of the seventy-five of the genuine composition, while the treacle was made to seem Venetian by ingeniously marked pewter boxes. On his return he lived in Wood Street, London, and worked hard with his cure in the plague of 1603. He was sent early in James I's reign to Poland on public business. He was elected surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital on 19 Jan. 1616, on the resignation of Richard Mapes, and held office till his own death. In 1612, on the formation of the East India Company into a joint-stock business, Woodall was appointed its first surgeon-general, and continued in office for nearly thirty years. He at once drew up regulations for their surgeons, and exact lists of instruments and remedies for their chests, and in 1617 published, chiefly for their use and that of surgeons in the king's service, ‘The Surgion's Mate, or a Treatise discovering faithfully the due contents of the Surgion's Chest.’ On 26 March 1617–18 his salary was ‘increased to 30l. a year’ (Cal. State Papers, East Indies, 1617–21, p. 141). In 1624 he was accused of employing unskilful surgeons (ib. 1622–4, p. 413). Woodall was also interested in the Virginia Company, to which he subscribed 37l. 10s., but is said not to have paid it. In the disputes between the party of Sir Edwin Sandys [q. v.] and that of Sir Thomas Smith (1558?–1625) [q. v.], Woodall sided with Smith, whose surgeon he was. On 18 July 1620 he was suspended from the court of the company pending an inquiry into his ‘foule aspercion uppon Sir Edwin Sandys.’ On 20 Oct. 1623 he voted for the surrender of the company's charters to the crown. He had been very active in promoting the exportation of cattle to Virginia to supply the colonists with milk, and disputes about his cattle are mentioned in the correspondence between the English privy council and the governor of Virginia (Cal. State Papers, Amer. and West Indies, 1574–1660, pp. 53, 238, 291).

In 1628 Woodall published ‘Viaticum, being the Pathway to the Surgeon's Chest.’ It contains a list of instruments and directions for the treatment of surgical cases. The ordinary surgeon was allowed a chest worth 17l., and the surgeon-major one of 48l. value, and Woodall praises the discretion of Charles I in improving the army medical department. The ‘Viaticum’ was republished as a sequel to an enlarged work, ‘The Surgeon's Mate, or Military and Domestique Surgery, with a Treatise for the Cure of the Plague,’ in 1639 (London, folio; 4th edit. 1655). It is dedicated to Charles I, with secondary dedications to Sir Christopher Clitherow and the East India Company, and to William Clowes (1582–1648) and the Barber-Chirurgeons, and two pages of commendatory verses by George Dun, a warden of the mystery, are prefixed. Descriptions are given of the instruments of surgery, of drugs and their preparations, of a number of injuries, of operations, and of some diseases, ending with a general account of alchemy, a treatise of the signs used, and several pages of chemical verses. The description of scurvy is very full, and is the result of extended personal observations, and the book is said to be the earliest in which lime-juice is prescribed for its treatment (Brown, Genesis U.S.A., ii. 1050); it had, however, been used in 1593 by Hawkins (see Herbert Spencer, Study of Sociology, libr. ed. p. 159). Woodall mentions with respect the practice of two physicians to St. Bartholomew's whom he had known, William Harvey (1578–1657) [q. v.] and Peter Turner (1542–1614) [q. v.] On 20 Nov. 1627 he went to Portsmouth to attend the wounded from the Isle of Rhé, and on 30 Sept. 1641 was appointed an examiner of surgeons. He died in September 1643, leaving by his wife, Sara Henchpole, three sons and one daughter.

Woodall's works show some power of observation, and indicate a desire to extend the practice of his art within the domain of pure medicine, with a dread of, rather than reverence for, physicians. Like most of his contemporaries he uses many pious expressions, and has a tendency to quote a little Latin and to write doggerel English verse, but his English style is not so good as that of William Clowes (1540–1604). He had a secret remedy called aurum vitæ for the plague. His portrait, in a skull-cap and ruff, engraved by G. Glover, is at the foot of the title-page of the ‘Surgeon's Mate’ of 1639.

[Works; Young's Annals of the Barber-Surgeons; Original manuscript Journals of St. Bartholomew's Hospital; Cal. State Papers, Colonial, American, and East Indian, passim (in the index to the latter he is erroneously entered as William Woodall); Brown's Genesis of the United States; Visitation of London (Harl. Soc.) ii. 365.]

N. M.