Lives of the fellows

George (Sir) Ent

b.6 November 1604 d.13 October 1689
AB Cantab(1627) AM(1631) MD Padua(1636) MD Oxon(1638) FRCP(1639) FRS

Sir George Ent, M.D., [“the ornament of his age” as he is styled by Goodall, Epistle Dedicatory to historical account of the College’s proceedings etc] was the son of Josias Ent, a Belgian merchant of substance and standing, who had fled from the Netherlands on account of his religion and settled at Sandwich, co. Kent. There his son George, the future physician, was born on the 6th November, 1604. He received his early education at a school at Rotterdam, under James Beckman, and in April, 1624, was admitted at Sidney Sussex college, Cambridge. He proceeded A.B. in 1627, A.M. in 1631. He spent five years at Padua, then the most celebrated school of medicine in the world, and took his degree of doctor of medicine there 28th April, 1636. [I find a notice of his being a guest at the English College in Rome on the 5 Oct 1636 and that on that occasion he dined in the refectory there along with his countrymen and intimate friend William Harvey – the discoverer of the circulation. Vide Foleys Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus. Vol.VI. p.614. 8oo Lond. 1880] He was incorporated on that degree at Oxford, 9th November, 1638. He was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 8th April, 1639, and a Fellow 25th June, 1639.

On the 10th February, 1645-6, he married at St. Olave’s, Jewry, Sarah, the daughter of Dr. Meverall (p. 172), of St. Lawrence, Jewry. He was Gulstonian lecturer in 1642. Dr. Ent was Censor no less than twenty-two years; and with three exceptions, viz., 1650, 1652, and 1658, from 1645 to 1669; Registrar from 1655 to 1670; Elect, 1st October, 1657; Consiliarius, 1667, 1668, 1669, and again from 1676 to 1686 included; President, 1670, 1671, 1672, 1673, 1674, 1675; again, in place of Dr. Micklethwait, deceased, 17th August 1682; and for the last time, 24th May, 1684, in place of Dr. Whistler, deceased. He delivered the anatomy lectures at the College in 1665, and on this occasion was honoured by the presence of Charles II, who knighted him in the Harveian Museum after the lecture. This solitary instance of such an honour conferred within the walls of the College stands thus recorded in the Annals :-
“1665, Aprilis 13, 14, 15. Prælectiones anatomicæ habitæ sunt in Collegio a Dre Ent, visumque est Dno Regi iisdem ultimo die interesse. Ubi postquam a Dno Præside, Eduardo Alston, et prælectore Dre Ent summæ gratiæ Regi clementissimo actæ, Collegioque eo nomine gratulati essent: placuit Regi Drem Ent, in ipso musæo Harveiano, equestri dignitate ornare.” (1)

Sir George Ent was one of the original fellows of the Royal Society, and is named in the charter one of the first council.

Sir George resigned his place of Elect 4th October, 1689; and dying a few days after (13th October, 1689), in his 85th year at St. Giles in the Fields, was buried in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry. (2) At a time when all educated men spoke Latin, and most of them with facility, Ent was renowned beyond all his contemporaries for the ease and elegance with which he did so. He was “a good scholar, a respectable anatomist, conversant with physical science generally, acquainted with all the leading men of letters and science of his time, and in particular enjoying the friendship of William Harvey.” (3) His first literary production was his Apologia pro Circulatione Sanguinis, contra Æmilium Parisanum 8vo. Lond. 1641, in which he learnedly defended Harvey against his opponent, and gave a rational account of the operation of purgative medicines. “Nothing, indeed,” to quote Dr. Lawrence, “can be more unlike than Parisanus and Ent; and it is not wonderful, therefore, that one utterly ignorant of physical science, confronted by one thoroughly conversant therein – that one, without power of utterance, opposed by one gifted with eloquence – that one, sluggish and inert, in the hands of one active and full of energy, should be effectually vanquished and overcome.”(4) The original MS. of this treatise, in Sir George’s handwriting, is in the possession of this College, to which it was presented 2nd December, 1748, by Francis Pigott, esq., A.M., fellow of New college, Oxford. To Sir George Ent we are mainly indebted for Harvey’s work, de Generatione Animalium the MS. of which he obtained with some difficulty from the great anatomist, about Christmas, 1650; and, with the author’s permission, published it the following year, in quarto, with a letter dedicatory to the President and Fellows of the College, explaining the circumstances under which it had been confided to him. Sir George’s last publication was his Animadversiones in Malachiæ Thrustoni, M.D. Diatribam de Respirationis usu primario 8vo. Lond. 1672. His collected works, Opera omnia Medico-Physica were published at Leyden, in 1687. [Sir George Ent’s portrait was engraved by R. White.]

William Munk

[(1) The MS. of these Lectures, “Prælectiones anatomicæ habitæ in Ædibus Collegii Medicorum,” Lond., 1665, is in the College library.
(2) “In Collegium Medicorum Londinense paulo post admissus ita se gessit, ut omnes homines mores ejus amabiles diligerunt, ingenium admirarentur. In Censores Collegii, penes quos judicium de medicinam facientibus atque de medicamentis leges nostræ esse volunt, sæpe cooptatus est: quæ magna significatio fuit qualem doctrina et moribus collegæ Entium experti essent. Regestarii in eodem collegio munere quindecim annos ita functus est, ut nullius diligentia in actis collegii annalium libro inscribendis, magis spectata fuerit, omnes antecessores sermonis elegantia facile superaverit. Exponendæ anatomiæ præfectus de corporis humani fabrica multa cum laude disseruit, adeo ut ejusdem prælectioni cuidem rex Carolus secundus interesse non dedignatus Entium, postquam perorasset, equestri dignitate decoraverit doctum et eloquentem virum quanti faceret notum esse cupiens. Entio postea, cum omnium electorum suffragiis collegio medicorum Londinensi præfectus esset, singulis annis exeuntibus in alterum annum prorogata est auctoritas, donec tandem post sex annos, senectutem atque valetudinem causatus, ut collegii habenas diutius moderaretur exorari noluit. Post exutam collegii præfecturam in otio jucundissimo annos quatuordecim vexit, studiisque literarum ad extremum vitæ tempus senectutem suam oblectavit. Obiit autem mortem die mensis Octobris decimo tertio, anno salutis nostræ MDCLXXXIX cum annos fere sex supra octoginta vixiset. In Apologia pro sanguinis circulatione, breviter atque dilucide, multo sale multisque facetiis inspersis, ostendit quantulum virium haberet, quidquid tanto hiatu in Harveium Parisnus effudisset. Nihil certe tam dissimile quam Entius Parisano; non igitur mirum, si hominem in physica omnino rudem doctus, si infantem eloquens, si pinguem et tardum acer et subtilis facile vicerit. Præter Apologiam pro sanguinis circulatione, Animadversiones in Thrustoni librum de respirationis usu primario edidit. Cum enim ea, quæ de illo argumento disputaverant, Entius et Thrustonus, hic omnium eruditorum judicio subjici voluerat, ei morem Entius libenter gessit et multa insuper reposuit, quibus Thrustonum sententiæ suæ confirmandæ non satis fuisse convinceret. In illa disputatione quæstionem sine iracundia et pertinacia, ut inter æquos verique inveniendi cupidos agitatem habemus: et licet, quod summum rei spectat, Entium causam pejorem suscepisse confiteamur; id tamen profecto humanæ est imbecillitatis, ut ægerrime opiniones, quibus adolescentes imbuti fuerimus, senescentes dediscamus; maxmie de iis rebus, de quibus, haud absurdè in utramque partem disputari posit. Præter opera modo memorata, superest anatome ranæ piscatricis; observationes etiam ponderis testitudinis in autumno terram subeuntis, cum ejusdem ex terra verno tempore exeuntis pondere comparati per plures annos repetitæ; prælectiones etiam anatomicæ manu scriptæ quæ Oxonii in museo Ashmoleano asservantur; epistolæ præterea et orationes elegantes Entii ipsius manu scriptæ penes Franciscum Pigottum medicinæ doctorem Oxoniensem. Atque hæc paulo quidem uberius quam argumenti nostri ratio postulare forsitan videatur de Entio, veræ physiologiæ propugnatore Harveiique amico conjunctissimo, haud ingrata lectori dixisse speramus.” Harveii Vita, auctore Thoma Lawrence, M,D., 4to. Lond. 1766, p.viii.
(3) Life of Harvey, by Robert Willis, M.D., p.xlvi.
(4) Willis’s Life, p. xlvi.]

[Arms. Morison, Plantarum. Tab.1. Section 4.]

[Letters from Thomas Stanley of Clumberlow Green, Herts., mentioning Sir George Ent. (see “Notes and Queries,” December 1958. Vol. 5, no.12 pp.544-5)]

[Lecture on respiration at Gresham College. 22 Jan 1666 (Pepys)]

[Genealogy in Le Neve’s Knights, 1873, pp.190-1.]

(Volume I, page 223)

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