Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mayerne, Theodore Turquet de
MAYERNE, Sir THEODORE TURQUET DE, M.D. (1573–1655), physician, son of Louis Turquet de Mayerne, a French protestant historian, of Piedmontese origin, and his wife Louise le Maçon, daughter of Antoine le Maçon, treasurer-at-war in the reigns of Francis I and Henry II of France, was born at Mayerne, near Geneva, 28 Sept. 1573, and had Theodore Beza for his godfather. After school education at Geneva he went to the university of Heidelberg for four years, and thence to Montpellier, where he graduated M.B. in 1596 and M.D. 20 Feb. 1597. He then went to Paris, where, through the influence of Dr. Ribbitz de la Rivière, he became a royal district physician in 1600. He began to give lectures on medicine to such students as would come, chiefly surgeons and apothecaries, and openly used and defended the use of chemical remedies, abhorred by the Galenists. Irritated by an anonymous attack, he published in 1603 'Apologia in Sua videre est inviolatis Hippocratis et Galeni legibus remedia chymice preparata, tuto usurpari posse.' This treatise of 120 pages is dedicated to Achilles Harlæus, president of the parliament of Paris, and after a statement of the jealousy with which Mayerne, as a doctor of Montpellier, had been received by the physicians of Paris, and an account of his own education, he goes on to show that the use of chemical remedies was not only in accord with the principles but even with the practice of Hippocrates and Galen. The pamphlet, while expressing just indignation, is moderate in tone and dignified in style. A reply appeared, at once: 'Ad famosam Turqueti Apologiam responsio,' which is attributed to the elder Riolanus by Guy Patin, and which is filled with abuse, beginning with a bad pun on 'Turquet,' a cur, quoting several errors of hasty writing, such as ' palatin ' for ' palato,' 'salia' for ` sales,' ` balsaurum ' for ' balsamus,' and finally charging Mayerne with having injured several patients by his treatment. The College of Physicians in the university of Paris condemned Mayerne's apology by a unanimous vote, 5 Dec. 1603, ordered physicians to refuse to meet him in consultation, and recommended that he should be deprived of his office. He ceased to lecture, but took no further notice of the attack. In 1601 he had accompanied the Due de Rohan to Spires and to Italy, and his favour at court rose every year. In 1606 he cured an English peer who had come to Paris. This peer took Mayerne to England and presented him to the king, who appointed him physician to the queen. He was incorporated M.D. at Oxford 8 April 1606, and afterwards returned to Paris, where he remained till 1611, when he was called to London early in the summer (Works, pp. 76, 90) by letters patent under the great seal, presented by the English ambassador. He was appointed first physician to the king, and the physicians of London, unlike those of Paris, recognised his ability and sought his friendship. He at once sprang into large practice, and went hither and thither to see great men. On 1 Aug. 1611 he examined, at Salisbury, Sir Robert Cecil, who had a tumour on the right side of his abdomen, and other symptoms pointing to cancer of the liver, secondary to an intestinal new growth (Opera, ed. Browne, p. 80); on 1 Sept. 1611 Lord Rochester for dyspepsia (ib. p. 90); Lord Monteagle's daughter for epilepsy, 22 Jan. 1612, in which year he was also consulted, though not at first, about Prince Henry, and after his death wrote, as a sort of state paper, in both Latin and French: ' Relation veritable de la Maladie, Mort, et Ouverture du Corps de tres Hault et tres illustre Henry, Prince de Valles, decedé a St. James lez Londres le ui de Novembre 1612.' This document gives a full and lucid account of the typhoid fever of which the prince died, and is a valuable monument of the medicine of the time. His account of the illness and death of Isaac Casaubon, 1 July 1614 (Opera, p. 144), is also a good illustration of the elaborate and exact method which he always followed in examining and prescribing for his patients. The regimen given by Mayerne is minutely and copiously recorded in each case. French patients often came over to consult him. Dunfermline, Montrose, Balmerino, and other Scots shared the confidence which their king felt in him. James I trusted him implicitly, and was treated by him for renal colic with hæmaturia 12 July 1613, and for an abscess of his arm from a fall, 28 July 1613, at Salisbury, for melancholy, for gout again and again, and for jaundice in 1619 (Sloane MS. No. 1679). On 25 June 1616 he was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians of London, and in 1618 wrote the dedication to the king of the first pharmacopoeia published by the college. In 1618 he revisited France for a short time, and from 1621 is spoken of as Baron d'Aubonne. He had a house at Aubonne, near Lausanne, in Switzerland. He was knighted at Theobalds 14 July 1624 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights).
Mayerne had attended Charles I as a boy (Sloane MS. No. 1679), and on his accession was appointed physician to the king and queen, who both regarded him as an old friend. In one of his case-books he has transcribed a long letter from the queen and one from the king: ` Mayerne, pour l'amour de moy alle trouver ma femme C. R.' He drew up a report to the king on a case of supposed poisoning referred to the College of Physicians, 31 May 1632 (Goodall, Royal College of Physicians, p. 435), and in 1635 the college at his instance prosecuted a quack named Evans. His leisure was occupied with chemical and physical experiments which he had begun in Paris (Sloane MSS. Nos. 2041, 2222). Some of his experiments were pharmacological, and their results are useful to this day, for he brought calomel into use, and first prepared the mercurial lotion known as black-wash. Other experiments related to pigments and enamels. He discovered the purple colour necessary for the carnation tints in enamel painting. He wrote from 1620 to 1646 a large manuscript volume (Sloane MS. No. 2052) entitled 'Pictoria Sculptoria et quæ subalternarum artium,' &c., which contains many trials of pigments (fol. 80), most of them now much faded. He made an ingenious kind of tablet-book, capable of being washed by covering parchment with a resinous compound, and used such a one (ib. No. 552) as a scribbling-book, in which he wrote prescriptions in red ink. Only one, dated 14 Dec. 1649, is now legible, as much of the varnish has chipped off. He kept notes of a great many cases, many at length, in twenty-three volumes of the Sloane collection in the British Museum. He usually divides his account of a patient into two parts: (1) Theoria, (2) curatio, and when the curatio is very elaborate he adds, ' recapitulatio ordinis agendorum.' He generally gives the patients' names, except where it was obvious that publication was undesirable, as 'pro Camilla, 15 Jul. 1642;' `pro Ascanio, 23 Jul. 1642' (ib. No. 1998). He often wrote long counsels in reply to letters. The most important of these adversaria are printed in Joseph Browne's edition of his 'Opera Medica' published in 1701. The 'Praxis Medica' published by his godson, Sir Theodore des Vaux, in 1690 contains another series of his medical notes, with a long letter on haemoptysis to Dr. George Bate [q. v.], dated 10 Nov. 1641. He always wrote in Latin or French, and several spellings of English names in his writings suggest that he was never perfectly familiar with English. A Lady 'Cherosbury,' who thought herself poisoned, was 'Shrewsbury,' and there are numerous similar phonetic attempts. He stayed in London during the great rebellion, and saw many patients. He drew up, 28 Aug. 1644, ' Prophylactica pro Principibus in regia Sti Jacobi habitantibus,' a series of precautions against plague, in the same year he went with Sir Matthew Lister [q. v.] to Exeter, to see Queen Henrietta Maria. His London house was in St. Martin's Lane (addressed letter in Sloans MS. No. 2052). After Charles I's execution he was appointed physician to Charles II, and in the same year he retired to Chelsea, where he died 22 March 1655. He bequeathed his library to the College of Physicians, where it was burnt in the great fire. He was twice married, first to Marguerite de Boetslaër, by whom he had two children who died young, and secondly to Elizabeth Joachimi, who bore him two sons and three daughters of whom only one child, Elizabeth, survived him. She married in 1652 Pierre de Caumont, Marquis de Cugnac, and died in childbed at the Hague in 1661, when his descendants became extinct. He was buried, with his wife, mother, and five children, in the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, where he had a monument on the north wall of the chancel, with a long Latin inscription written by Sir Theodore des Vaux. He bequeathed 200l. to the hospital of Geneva.
Mayerne was a great physician, and the general tone of his writings is enlightened. All physicians who have read much in the works of their predecessors are considerate of old methods and opinions, and this is the explanation of the quantity of mediæval pharmacology to be found in Mayerne's writings. He continued to regard as useful many remedies which had not been proved useless. He was an innovator and a man of new ideas, and for that very reason was perhaps over-anxious to prove his respect for what had long been generally received. His industry in chemistry, shown in his innumerable notes and experiments, explains his prescription of cosmetics for the queen. Her vanity was pleased by them and his experimental curiosity satisfied. No trace of courtly servility is to be found in his writings or is related of him. He adhered throughout life to the principles in which he was brought up, and the universal respect in which he was held by contemporary physicians is further proof of his upright character. A good portrait of him hangs on the staircase of the College of Physicians, and is engraved in Browne's edition of his works. A fine drawing in colours by Rubens is in the British Museum.
[Sloane MSS. in Brit. Mus. Nos. 552, 646, 693, 1512, 1679,1981,2019, 2044, 2052-3, 2055; 2086, 2222, cum aliis; Coll. of Phys. MS. Annales, vol. iii.; Joseph Browne's Opera Medica T. T. Mayernii, London, 1700, some copies are dated 1701; Preface to Theodore des Vaux's T. de Mayerne's Praxis Medica, 2nd edit. Geneva, 1692; Theoph. Bonetus's T. T. de Mayerne's Tractatus de Arthritide, London, 1676; Ad famosam Turqueti responsio, Paris, 1603; J. Astruc's Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire de la Faculté de Medecine de Montpellier, Paris, 1767; C. Goodall's Royal College of Physicians, London, 1684; Philosophical Transactions, 1687 and 1700; J. Aikin's Biog. Memoirs of Medicine, London, 1780; Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 163; Norman Moore's Last Illness and Death of Henry, Prince of Wales; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting; Jean Senebier's Histoire Littéraire de Genève, Geneva, 1786, ii. 111; Eugène and Emile Haag's La France Protestante, Paris, 1861, vii, 350, in which is a list of editions of writings attributed to him; Guy Patin's Lettres, vol. i.]