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Thomas Browne


Thomas Browne

The English author and physician, Sir Thomas Browne, was born in London on October 19, 1605. He was educated at Winchester College and Pembroke College, Oxford, before continuing his medical studies abroad, taking his M.D. at Leiden in 1633. After this, he practiced at Shibden Hall, near Halifax, where he wrote his first and greatest literary work, the Religio Medici ('Religion of a Doctor'), around 1635. This was written as "a private exercise directed to myself" - a meditation on spiritual and religious mysteries that was not originally intended for publication. After being admitted as an M.D. to Oxford, Browne settled in Norwich in 1637, and he lived and practiced there for the remainder of his life.

Having been circulated informally amongst his friends, the Religio Medici was published without permission in 1642, and an authorized edition followed the year after. His next work, in 1646, was an attempt to counter common misconceptions and credulity, and was entitled Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or, Enquiries into Very many received Tenets, and commonly presumed truths, more usually known as Browne's Vulgar and Common Errors. 1658 saw the publication of Hydriotaphia, Urne-Buriall, or, A Discourse of the Sepulchrall Urnes lately found in Norfolk, and The Garden of Cyrus, or the Quincunciall Lozenge, or Net-Work Plantations of the Ancients. The former contained reflections on one of Browne's favorite subjects, death; while the latter ranged over ancient horticulture and the mystical significance of the number five. In 1664, he besmirched his posthumous reputation to some extent by being a witness in the condemnation of two women for witchcraft.

Browne was knighted in Norwich by Charles II in 1671, and died on October 19, 1682 in Norwich, where he was buried in the church of St Peter Mancroft. Works published posthumously include Miscellany Tracts (1683), A Letter to a Friend, Upon occasion of the Death of his Intimate Friend (1690), and the incomplete Christian Morals (1716).

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