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Table of Contents
Nicholas Culpeper was an English botanist, herbalist, astrologer, and physician who was born in 1616. He spent most of his time outside observing plants, herbs, and the sky, writing dozens of books and publications and having a profound and extensive impact on medicine in early North American colonies.
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Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE OF NICHOLAS CULPEPER
- Nicholas Culpeper was born on October 18, 1616 in Surrey, England to Nicholas Culpeper Sr, a cleric who died shortly before his son was born, and his mother.
- He was taken to live in Sussex at his mother’s childhood home, where he was raised by both his mother and maternal grandfather, the Reverend William Attersole, who was the minister of St. Margaret’s Church.
- Attersole had a profound impact on Culpeper, teaching him Latin and Greek, influencing his religious and political beliefs, and instilling in him a strong puritanical influence.
- Culpeper became interested in his grandfather’s clocks, as well as astronomy, time, astrology, and the medical texts found in the family library, which he began reading around age 10.
- He was inspired by the book Anatomy of Man’s Body by Thomas Vicary, which he read in secret and inspired him to become a physician.
- However, it was his grandmother who introduced him to the world of medicinal plants, herbs, and botany.
- He began studying at Cambridge at the age of 16 where he studied the classics and anatomy; he also took part in sports such as tennis and swimming.
- Unfortunately, shortly before marrying Judith Rivers (whom he had known for years), her coach was struck by lightning and she died; this was followed a year later with the passing of his mother, resulting in Culpeper refusing to continue studying.
- In retaliation, Attersole disowned Culpeper from the family fortune and set him up with an apprenticeship with Daniel White, a Master Apothecary, severing all ties with Culpeper.
- After seven years with the apothecary, his apprenticeship was completed in 1640 and Culpeper began his own practice in Spitalfields, London.
- The opening of the practice came at a time when London was in desperate need of good quality, affordable physicians, and in the beginning, Culpeper provided his services free of charge.
- In the same year, he married Alice Field, the 15 year-old heiress of a wealthy grain merchant.
IMPACT ON MEDICINE AND BOTANY
- Culpeper’s practice in London was different than the others; instead of simply examining his patients’ urine, he would actually examine them in person.
- His practice was very busy, and he soon earned a reputation for being a healer for the poor.
- Working amongst the poor in London sparked a belief in Culpeper that medical treatment shouldn’t be reserved for only the privileged class, but this sparked controversy amongst his fellow physicians who saw him as a traitor.
- In May of 1640, his grandfather passed away, leaving Culpeper only 40 shillings in his will.
- Shortly after, in 1642, Culpeper responded to the call-to-arms for the English Civil War as field surgeon, but a hit from a musket shot meant his days on the battlefield were over.
- When he returned to London he continued to face criticism over his unorthodox methods for treating patients.
- Culpeper was determined to put medical knowledge and power back into the hands of the people; he did this by translating many medical books written in Latin to English.
- He largely believed that priests, lawyers, and physicians were a burden to society and that they used Latin to prevent the lower classes (who could only read English) from accessing information.
BOOKS, BELIEFS, AND LEGACY
- Nicholas Culpeper authored several books and publications about herbalism and medicine and their relation to astrology.
- His book The English Physician (which was later named the Complete Herbal) is a large volume dedicated to pharmaceutical and herbal knowledge.
- His book Astrological Judgment of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick, written in 1655, is one of the most detailed works on medical astrology in Early Modern Europe.
- These books, along with many others, chronicled the time he spent outside, where he catalogued hundreds of medicinal herbs, advocated for greater accessibility of medical treatments, and systemized the use of herbals to treat illnesses.
- Culpeper emphasized reason rather than tradition, and this approach had a huge impact on medicine, particularly in early North American colonies in the New World during the Age of Discovery, when they were used to treat things like heart conditions, bites from “venomous beasts”, cramps and convulsions, bruises, afterbirth, and other pains and illnesses.
- The advocacy of these simple and cheap herbs by Culpeper angered his fellow physicians, as it gave substance to his claim that physicians following traditional methods were greedy.
- Nicholas Culpeper died of tuberculosis on January 10, 1654 at the age of 37; he was buried in New Churchyard in London.
Nicholas Culpeper Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Nicholas Culpeper across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Nicholas Culpeper worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Nicholas Culpeper who was an English botanist, herbalist, astrologer, and physician who was born in 1616. He spent most of his time outside observing plants, herbs, and the sky, writing dozens of books and publications and having a profound and extensive impact on medicine in early North American colonies.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Nicholas Culpeper Facts
- Galen and Hippocrates
- Direct Impacts on Medicine
- Nicholas Culpeper Crossword
- Quote Analysis
- Commemorative Stamp
- Nicholas Culpeper Wordsearch
- Timeline of Culpeper’s Life
- The Age of Discovery
- Plant Scrapbook
- Culpeper Acrostic
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