Lives of the fellows

John Craige

b.? d.?
MD Basle FRCP(1604) MD Oxon(1605)

John Craige, MD, was born in Scotland, and was the third son of the eminent lawyer, Sir Thomas Craige, of Riccarton, whose treatise De Feudis is considered one of the noblest monuments of the legal literature of Scotland. He graduated doctor of medicine at Basle, settled in his native country, and became first physician to James VI of Scotland.

Dr Craige accompanied that monarch to this country, on his accession to the throne of England, and was here continued in the same office. On the 2nd April, 1604, he appeared before the College in his capacity of physician in ordinary to the King, was examined, approved, and elected a Fellow, and was promised admission as such on the first vacancy that occurred. He was at the same time sworn, and allowed all privileges, as if already admitted. On the 25th June, 1604, on the death of Dr Muffett, he was actually admitted.

Dr Craige was incorporated at Oxford, on his doctor’s degree, 30th August, 1605; was named an Elect 11th December, 1605; was Consiliarius in 1609 and 1617; and was certainly dead on the 10th of April, 1620, when Dr Argent was chosen an Elect in his place.

Dr Craige was probably the person who gave Napier of Murchieston the first hint which led to his great discovery of logarithms. Wood(1) tells us, that “one Dr Craig, a Scotchman, coming out of Denmark into his own country, called upon John Neper, Baron of Murcheston, near Edinburgh, and told him, among other discourses, of a new invention in Denmark (by Logomontanus as ‘tis said), to save the tedious multiplication and division in astronomical calculations. Neper being solicitous to know further of him concerning this matter, he could give no other account of it, than that it was by proportional numbers, which hint Neper taking, he desired him at his return to call upon him again. Craig, after some weeks had passed, did so, and Neper then showed him a rude draft that he called ‘Canon mirabilis Logarithmorum,’ which, with some alterations, was printed in 1614.”

Dr Craige attended king James I in his last illness, but gave great offence at court, as we learn from bishop Burnet, for entertaining and giving free expression to the opinion that his royal patient had been poisoned. The facts as recorded afford a curious instance of the officious interference of friends in medical affairs, and may be here inserted. “The duchess of Buckingham, the Tuesday before the king died, would needs make use of a receipt she had approved, but, being without the privity of the physicians, occasioned so much discontent in Dr Craige, that he uttered some plain speeches, for which he was commanded out of court; the duke himself, as some say, complaining to the sick king of the words he spoke.”

This affair gave rise to a notion that the king had been poisoned, and Mr Mead, in a letter to Sir M Stuteville, says, “I am told for certain that Friday at night, ‘till the hour of his death, his tongue was swoln so big in his mouth, that either he could not speak at all or not to be understood. Certain it is that this plaster gave great offence to the king’s physicians, and gave rise to a variety of reports.” From the account given of the plaster in the “Aulicus Coquinariæ,” it was obtained from a country doctor, who was not aware that it was intended for the king.

The examination of his majesty’s body presented some curious appearances, and led to some amusing remarks. Upon opening the head it was found so very full of brains that they could not keep them from spilling, “a great mark of his infinite judgment;” but “his blood was wonderfully tainted with melancholy, and the corruption thereof was the supposed cause of his death.”

William Munk

[(1) Athenæ Oxon. vol. i, p. 469.]

(Volume I, page 116)

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