Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Salmon, William (1644-1713)

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SALMON, WILLIAM (1644–1713), empiric, was born 2 June 1644 (inscription under portrait in ‘Ars Anatomica’). His enemies asserted that his first education was from a mountebank with whom he travelled, and to whose stock-in-trade he succeeded. His travels extended to New England. Before out-patient rooms were established, irregular practitioners frequently lived near the gates of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and obtained patients from those to whom admission or attendance could not be granted in the hospital. Salmon set up in this capacity near the Smithfield gate of St. Bartholomew's, treated all diseases, sold special prescriptions of his own, as well as drugs in general, cast horoscopes, and professed alchemy. While resident in Smithfield he published in 1671 ‘Synopsis Medicinæ, or a Compendium of Astrological, Galenical, and Chymical Physick,’ in three books. The first book is dedicated to Dr. Peter Salmon, a wealthy physician of the time; the third to Thomas Salmon of Hackney, but the author does not claim to be related to either, though endeavouring, obviously without their consent, to associate himself in the public eye with them. Laudatory verses by Henry Coley, philomath; Henry Crawford, student in astrology; James Maxey, astrophilus; H. Mason; Jacob Lamb, philiatros; and John Bramfield, are prefixed, which state the work to be an admirable compound of Hermes, Hippocrates, Galen, and Paracelsus. A second edition appeared in 1681, a reissue in 1685, and a fourth edition in 1699. Richard Jones of the Golden Lion in Little Britain, who published this book, brought out in 1672 Salmon's ‘Polygraphice, the Art of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limning, Painting, Washing, Varnishing, Colouring, and Dyeing,’ dedicated to Peter Stanley of Alderley, who seems to have consulted Salmon professionally. Besides the mechanical parts of art, descriptions are given of the ways of representing the passions and emotions in portraiture. At the end Salmon advertises his pills, which are to be had for three shillings a box, and are good for all diseases. He moved to the Red Balls in Salisbury Court off Fleet Street, and there in 1681 brought out a new edition of his ‘Synopsis’ for a fresh publisher, Thomas Dawks, who also published his ‘Horæ Mathematicæ’ in 1679, ‘Doron Medicon’ in 1683, and ‘Iatrica seu Praxis Medendi,’ in 1681 (reissued in 1684). In 1684, after a short residence in George Yard, near Broken Wharf, Salmon moved to the Blue Balcony by the ditch side, near Holborn bridge, where he continued to reside till after 1692. He brought out a prophetic almanac in 1684, his first publication of the kind; and says in the preface that he liked to deal in medicine better than in prophecy. In 1687 he published, with Randal Taylor, ‘Select Physical and Chirurgical Observations,’ and in 1689, with Edward Brewster, a translation of the anatomy of Diemerbroek, the famous physician of Utrecht. In 1690 he published ‘A Discourse against Transubstantiation,’ in the form of a dialogue between a Protestant and a papist; in 1692 ‘Practical Physick,’ with the philosophic works of Hermes Trismegistus, Kalid, Geber, Artephius, Nicholas Flammel, Roger Bacon, and George Ripley; and in 1696 ‘The Family Dictionary,’ a work on domestic medicine. In 1698 he took part in the dispensary controversy [see Garth, Sir Samuel], in a ‘Rebuke to the Authors of a Blew Book written on behalf of the Apothecaries and Chirurgians of the City of London.’ In 1699 he published a general surgical treatise, ‘Ars Chirurgica.’ He used to attend the meetings of a new sect at Leathersellers' Hall, and in 1700 published a ‘Discourse on Water Baptism.’ In 1707 he published ‘The Practice of Physick, or Dr. Sydenham's “Processus Integri” translated,’ and in 1710 and 1711 two folio volumes, ‘Botanologia; or the English Herbal,’ dedicated to Queen Anne. He accumulated a large library, had two microscopes, a set of Napier's bones [see Napier or Neper, John], and other mathematical instruments, some arrows and curiosities which he brought from the West Indies, and a few Dutch paintings. He died in 1713. His portrait is prefixed to his edition of Diemerbroek, and to his ‘Ars Anatomica,’ which appeared posthumously in 1714. Several other engraved portraits are mentioned by Bromley, among them being one by Vandergucht.

Parts of the ‘Bibliothèque des Philosophes,’ 1672, and the ‘Dictionnaire Hermetique,’ 1695, are attributed to him, and besides the books mentioned above, he wrote ‘Officina Chymica,’ ‘Systema Medicinale,’ a ‘Pharmacopœia Londinensis,’ ‘Pharmacopœia Bateana,’ and ‘Phylaxa Medicinæ.’ The bibliography of his works is complicated, as several were reprinted with alterations, and his own lists do not agree with one another and are devoid of dates. His recorded cases, though they seem original, may often be traced to other sources, and it would be easy to believe what he says was asserted (Iatrica, preface), that he was merely the amanuensis of another person.

[Works; Bibliotheca Salmonea, London, 1713; Sebastian Smith of Amsterdam, The Religious Impostor: or the Life of Alexander, a Sham Prophet, Doctor and Fortune-Teller, out of Lucian, dedicated to Dr. Salmon, London, 1700.]

N. M.