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Book and Media Reviews
April 25, 2007

Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 2007;297(16):1827-1833. doi:10.1001/jama.297.16.1831

For anyone susceptible to accepting praise and backslaps from friends and family concerning their successful career or spectacular intellectual achievements, the life of Theodore de Mayerne (Figure ) will provide a welcome douse of cold water. Beyond the apparently mundane accomplishment of being recognized as Europe's premier physician, Mayerne found time to engage in several medical controversies, serve as personal physician to Henri IV of France and to James I of England and his daughter-in-law Queen Henriette Marie, undertake diplomatic missions across the continent, work as a secret agent, create plans for a never-realized Health Service for London, help separate surgeons from barbers as well as apothecaries from grocers, establish the first pharmacopoeia in England, create pigments used by his friends Rubens and Van Dyck, and write the recipe for the oil used to anoint English monarchs to this day. More prosaically, he was the first fabulously wealthy medical man in history. Hugh Trevor-Roper's use of the word “various” to describe his life seems apt.