Wotton, Edward (1492-1555) (DNB00)

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WOTTON, EDWARD (1492–1555), physician and naturalist, born at Oxford in 1492, was son of Richard Wotton, bedel of the university. He was educated at Magdalen College school, and became a chorister at Magdalen College in 1503. In 1506 he was elected demy, and on 9 Feb. 1513–14 graduated B.A.; he was elected fellow of Magdalen in 1516, and in 1520 was accused of conspiring with other fellows to elect certain undergraduates to scholarships (Macray, Reg. Magdalen Coll. i. 73, 74, 153). Soon afterwards he became first reader in Greek at Corpus Christi College, just founded by Bishop Foxe, though he was not definitely appointed until 2 Jan. 1520–1, and retained his rooms at Magdalen. In a letter (Lansd. MS. 989, f. 129) to Wotton, ascribed by Dr. Fowler and the Rev. W. D. Macray to that date, Bishop Foxe says that he has heard of Wotton's talents from the president of Corpus Christi, and regrets that the statutes of Magdalen did not permit him to make Wotton fellow of Corpus. He made him, however, socio compar, and gave him leave to travel in Italy for three or five years from 1 May next, ‘to improve his learning, and chiefly to learn Greek.’ But in a note to this letter in Brewer's ‘Calendar’ the date is corrected to 2 Jan. 1523–4 (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iv. 4). Wotton spent most of his time at Padua, where he graduated M.D., being incorporated at Oxford in that degree on 16 May 1526 (Boase, Reg. Univ. Oxon. i. 84).

Wotton was admitted fellow of the College of Physicians on 8 Feb. 1528, was consiliarius in 1531, 1547, and 1549, elect in 1531, censor in 1552, 1553, and 1555, and president in 1541, 1542, and 1543. He does not appear, as is often stated, to have been physician to Henry VIII, but he served the Duke of Norfolk and Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury [q. v.], in that capacity, receiving from her an annuity of 60 shillings, and corresponded with her son Reginald, afterwards Cardinal Pole (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, iv. 677). He died on 5 Oct. 1555, and was buried in St. Alban's Church, Wood Street, Cheapside, where also was buried his wife Katharine, who died on 4 Dec. 1558 (Lansd. MS. 874; Machyn, Diary, pp. 95, 346). His son Henry graduated M.B. from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1562, and M.D. in 1567, was proctor in 1556, and, like his father, Greek reader at Corpus; he was admitted a candidate of the College of Physicians on 12 May 1564, and fellow on 18 Jan. 1571–2, and was censor in 1581 and 1582 (Munk, Coll. of Phys. i. 70–1).

Wotton is said to have been the first English physician who made a systematic study of natural history, and he acquired a European reputation by his ‘Edoardi Wottoni Oxoniensis de Differentiis Animalium libri decem.’ The book was dedicated to Edward VI, and published at Paris in 1552; the copy in the British Museum, a fine folio, is probably unsurpassed in its typographical excellence by any contemporary work. Conrad Gesner, the great Zürich professor, who had commenced the publication of his ‘Historia Animalium’ in 1551, notices Wotton's work in the ‘Enumeratio Authorum’ prefixed to his fourth book (Zürich, 1558), and remarks that, while Wotton teaches nothing new, his book deserves to be read and praised as a complete and clearly written digest of previous works on the subject. Haller's verdict is very similar, while Neander declared that no one had written of animals more learnedly and elegantly than Wotton (Neander, Succincta Explicatio Orbis Terræ, Leipzig, 1597, p. 410). Wotton also collected materials for the history of insects, which were published in ‘Insectorum sive Minimorum Animalium Theatrum olim ab Edoardo Wottono, Conrado Gesnero, Thomaque Pennio inchoatum, tandem Tho. Moufeti … opera … perfectum,’ London, 1634, fol. [see Moffett, Thomas]. Engraved portraits of Wotton, Moffett, and Penny appear in the frontispiece (Bromley, p. 41).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 226–7; Cal. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iv. 4, xiv. i. 181; Boase's Reg. Univ. Oxon.; Bloxam's Reg. Magdalen Coll. i. 4, iv. 48; Macray's Reg. of Magdalen Coll. Oxford; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Fowler's Hist. of Corpus Christi, Oxford; Munk's Royal Coll. of Phys. i. 27–9; Aikin's Biogr. Mem. of Medicine, 1780, pp. 66–8; Visitation of London (Harl. Soc.), ii. 369; Wotton's Works and authorities cited.]

A. F. P.