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Nich Culpeper's Biography (Books)

Nicholas Culpeper (18 October 1616 - 10 January 1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer. His published books include The English Physitian (1652) and the Complete Herbal (1653), which contain a rich store of pharmaceutical and herbal knowledge, and Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick (1655), which is one of the most detailed documents known on the practice of medical astrology in Early Modern Europe.

Culpeper spent the greater part of his life in the English outdoors cataloging hundreds of medicinal herbs. He criticized what he considered the unnatural methods of his contemporaries, writing: "This not being pleasing, and less profitable to me, I consulted with my two brothers, Dr. Reason and Dr. Experience, and took a voyage to visit my mother Nature, by whose advice, together with the help of Dr. Diligence, I at last obtained my desire; and, being warned by Mr. Honesty, a stranger in our days, to publish it to the world, I have done it."

Culpeper came from a long line of notable people including Thomas Culpeper, the lover of Catherine Howard (also a distant relative) who was sentenced to death by Catherine's husband, King Henry VIII.

Culpeper was the son of Nicholas Culpeper (Senior), a clergyman. Culpeper studied at Cambridge, and afterwards became apprenticed to an apothecary. After seven years his master absconded with the money paid for the indenture, and soon after this, Culpeper's mother died of breast cancer. Culpeper married the daughter of a wealthy merchant, which allowed him to set up a pharmacy in the halfway house in Spitalfields, London, outside the authority of the City of London at a time when medical facilities in London were at breaking point. Arguing that "no man deserved to starve to pay an insulting, insolent physician", and obtaining his herbal supplies from the nearby countryside, Culpeper was able to provide his services for free. This, and a willingness to examine patients in person rather than simply examining their urine (in his opinion, "as much piss as the Thames might hold" did not help in diagnosis), Culpeper was extremely active, sometimes seeing as many as forty people in one morning.

Using a combination of experience and astrology, Culpeper devoted himself to using herbs to treat the illnesses of his patients.

During the early months of the English Civil War he was accused of witchcraft and the Society of Apothecaries tried to rein in his practice. Alienated and radicalised he joined a trainband in August 1643 and fought at the First Battle of Newbury, where he carried out battlefield surgery. Culpeper was taken back to London after sustaining a serious chest injury from which he never recovered. There, in co-operation with the Republican astrologer William Lilly, he wrote the work 'A Prophesy of the White King', which predicted the king's death.

He died of tuberculosis in London on 10 January 1654 at the age of 37. Only one of his eight children, Mary, survived to adulthood.