Dr. Nicholas Culpeper the Herbalist1

Male, #8720, (18 Oct 1616 - 10 Jan 1654)
Father*Rev. Nicholas Culpeper M.A. (c 1580 - 4 Oct 1616)
Mother*Mary Atersole (s 1585 - )
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Culpepper. 
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Colepeper. 
Death of Father4 Oct 1616 His father Rev. Nicholas Culpeper M.A. died on 4 Oct 1616. 
Birth*18 Oct 1616 Nicholas was born at England on 18 Oct 1616. 
Marriage*1640 He married Alice Field at London, England, in 1640. Nicholas planned to marry the heiress Judith Rivers whom he had known since childhood. Their relationship developed unnoticed by their respective families. When Nicholas was sent to Cambridge they had to endure a painful separation, though they remained in touch by letter. They desired to be united by marriage however, and knowing that Judith's family would not give them their consent, they decided to elope. Their plan was to meet near Lewes, to secretly marry and then remain a while in the Netherlands until the familial animosity died down. Tragically, his beloved's coach was struck by lightning on the way to the rendezvous and she was killed. On learning the fate of his fiancée Nicholas was overcome by intense sorrow.

After his disasterous first attempt to be married, Nicholas finally found love in 1640 at the age of 24, when he married Alice Field. Alice, 15, had just inherited a considerable fortune. They met whilst Culpeper successfully treated her father for gouty arthritis. Using her large dowry he was able to build a house on Red Lion Street, next door to the Red Lion Inn in Spitalfields, now in the East End of London... By his 14th year of marriage to Alice, they had 7 children but only his daughter Mary outlived him.

(Alice afterwards married John Heydon, author of "The Evangelical Guide.").2 
Portrait* He was in a portrait at England.
Nicholas Culpeper
Birth of Sonsay 1646 His son Nathaniel Culpeper was born say 1646. 
Death*10 Jan 1654 He died at London, England, on 10 Jan 1654 at age 37
Culpeper's health in later years was not good. It is thought that he contracted tuberculosis from the bullet wound to the shoulder during the siege of Reading. The pressure of all his studies and writing, coupled with the ravaging effects of consumption wasting him to a mere skeleton, proved too much. Finally Cupeper died on January 10th 1654 at the age of 38, shortly after completing The English Physitian.2 
Biography* Nicholas Culpeper: English Physician and Astrologer

Nicholas Culpeper (1616-54) is a legendary figure in the field of herbal medicine.

A contemporary of William Harvey he is popularly regarded as the figurehead of alternative medicine, yet most historians of medicine simply refer to him as an uncritical quack and star-gazer.

What is the truth about his life? Nobody has yet told his story and the story is fascinating.

A member of an old noble family he was born fatherless in Surrey, squandered a fortune in Cambridge, and tried to elope with a rich heiress who was killed by lightning. He trained as an apothecary in London, and by producing an unauthorized critical translation of the London Dispensatory he became the enemy of the physicians.

In the Civil War he joined the Parliamentarian forces and was wounded. He fought a duel and was accused of witchcraft.

In 1652 he wrote his famous herbal, The English Physician and before that the first English textbook on midwifery and childcare, The English Midwife. In this first modern biography Culpeper emerges as one of the most significant physicians of the English speaking countries in the 17th century.

Today, the name Culpeper is found around the word in connection with shops selling herbs and spices. There is a chain of such shops in England. Such shops have been reported not just all over the old British Empire, but even in Japan! (The spices banner shown is of an Irish Linen towel purchased in Jamaica circa 1970 as a gift to Royce and Becky Culpepper, who provided the photograph).3 
Biography A Culpeper Antidote
Bezoar: A supposed antidote against poison.

The bezoar is a hard ball of hair or vegetable fibre that occurs in the stomachs of cud-chewing animals such as goats (though humans get them, too). If you feel like categorising them, a trichobezoar is a hairball, while a phytobezoar is one that contains mostly vegetable fibres.

The word is Persian (pad-zahr, counter-poison or antidote) and the bezoar’s fame as a cure for poison spread westwards from there in medieval times. You swallowed it, or occasionally rubbed it on the infected part. In A Voyage to Abyssinia, written by Father Lobo in the eighteenth century, he says: “I had recourse to bezoar, a sovereign remedy against these poisons, which I always carried about me”. Belief in its near-magical properties was then common.

Old herbals are full of recipes using it, such as this one from Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal of 1653: “Take of Pearls prepared, Crab’s eyes, red Coral, white Amber Hart’s-horn, oriental Bezoar, of each half an ounce, powder of the black tops of Crab’s claws, the weight of them all, beat them into powder, which may be made into balls with jelly, and the skins which our vipers have cast off, warily dried and kept for use”. Culpeper remarks that “four, or five, or six grains is excellently good in a fever to be taken in any cordial, for it cheers the heart and vital spirits exceedingly, and makes them impregnable”. Don’t try this at home!

(It’s not quite as bad as it sounds; scrapings of hart’s horn were frequently used as a thickener for jellies, and crab’s claws was a common British water plant.).4 
Biography From Alumni Cantabrigienses, a compliation of Cambridge University Alumni
     Nicholas Culpeper, Born in London, 18 Oct 1616. At Cambridge, 1634, for a time, but no University or College record. Son of Nicholas, above. Apprenticed to an apothecary in London; and set up as physician and astrologer in Spitalfields. Parliamentarian and Schismatic. Author, medical. Died 10 Jan 1653-4. (Dictionary of National Biography).5 
Biography Other Nicholas Culpeper Pages on this and other Websites
     1. A biography of Nicholas in the Wakehurst Culpeper pages. http://gen.culpepper.com/archives/uk/places/wakehurst3.htm
     2. An electronic version of Nicholas Culpeper's The English Physitian http://www.med.yale.edu/library/historical/culpeper/culpeper.htm
     3. An electronic version of Culpeper's Complete Herbal http://www.bibliomania.com/NonFiction/Culpeper/Herbal/
     4. A famous geological formation is reportedly named for Nicholas. See Culpepper's Dish. http://gen.culpepper.com/archives/uk/places/dish.htm
     5. Rudyard Kipling, in Rewards and Fairies, makes Nicholas the central character in his chapter entitled "A Doctor of Medicine"
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/556/556-h/556-h.htm

Family 1

Alice Field (1625 - )
Marriage*1640 He married Alice Field at London, England, in 1640. Nicholas planned to marry the heiress Judith Rivers whom he had known since childhood. Their relationship developed unnoticed by their respective families. When Nicholas was sent to Cambridge they had to endure a painful separation, though they remained in touch by letter. They desired to be united by marriage however, and knowing that Judith's family would not give them their consent, they decided to elope. Their plan was to meet near Lewes, to secretly marry and then remain a while in the Netherlands until the familial animosity died down. Tragically, his beloved's coach was struck by lightning on the way to the rendezvous and she was killed. On learning the fate of his fiancée Nicholas was overcome by intense sorrow.

After his disasterous first attempt to be married, Nicholas finally found love in 1640 at the age of 24, when he married Alice Field. Alice, 15, had just inherited a considerable fortune. They met whilst Culpeper successfully treated her father for gouty arthritis. Using her large dowry he was able to build a house on Red Lion Street, next door to the Red Lion Inn in Spitalfields, now in the East End of London... By his 14th year of marriage to Alice, they had 7 children but only his daughter Mary outlived him.

(Alice afterwards married John Heydon, author of "The Evangelical Guide.").2 

Family 2

Child
ChartsThe 12th century Culpepers of England: Descendant Chart (16 generations, Males only)
Last Edited20 Sep 2012

Citations

  1. Col. F.W.T. Attree R.E./F.S.A. & Rev. J.H.L. Booker M.A., "The Sussex Colepepers, Part II", Sussex Archaeological Collections, XLVIII,65-98, (1905)http://gen.culpepper.com/historical/sussex/default.htm.
  2. Dylan Warren Davis, Nicholas Culpeper, Herbalist of the People, http://www.skyscript.co.uk/culpeper.html,.
  3. Olav Thulesius, Nicholas Culpeper: English Physician and Astrologer, Hardcover. Published by St Martins Pr (Short), Publication date: April 1992, ISBN: 031207543X (Book Review found on Amazon.com).
  4. WORLD WIDE WORDS http://www.worldwidewords.org/. Copyright Michael B Quinion, 1996-2010. 
  5. J. A. Venn, compiler, Alumni Cantabrigienses (Alumni of Cambridge University), Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1921.
    Dr. Nicholas Culpeper.