Lives of the fellows

Simon Ludford

b.? d.?

Simon Ludford, M.D. – A curious history is connected with this physician, which affords, as Dr. Johnson in his Life of Linacre justly says, a proof of the anxiety of the members of the College to fulfil the intentions of the founder, and to discharge the obligations to which they had bound themselves on their admission.

The university of Oxford had admitted Simon Ludford, originally a Franciscan friar, and afterwards an apothecary in London, and David Langton, a coppersmith – two ignorant, unlettered, and incompetent persons - to the honours of the baccalaureate in medicine. The College reproved the university by letter, recommending that the vote which conferred the degrees should be rescinded, and advising a more cautious conduct in the future dispensation of them. With the former the university did not think it fit to comply and the College was meditating further proceedings, when the inquisition of Cardinal Pole, in 1556, for the reformation of religion and faith, and the correction of collegiate abuses, enabled them to prosecute their appeal with more effect. The College immediately laid their complaints before the visitors, to whom they gave the following specimen of Laughton’s pretensions: “Cujus infantia cum suggessit, ut quomodo corpus declinareter, exigeremus, respondit, hic, hœc, et hoc corpus, accusativo corporem,” adding “egregius certè ex universitate, medicus cui humana vita committeretur.” The visitors interdicted the university from a repetition of this licence, and provided that a certain course of study should be followed by each candidate previously to his incorporation. The coppersmith appears to have abandoned the further honours of the profession; but his colleague, whose pretensions at that time were not a degree higher, was not to be so easily diverted from his purpose, and, when he found the doors of congregation in one university closed against him, betook himself to Cambridge, with the hope of prosecuting his claim with better success. Here, however, a remonstrance from the College awaited him, and he failed in his purpose, as he justly deserved to do, with the following character as his herald: “Illud scimus, imperitiorem multò, multò indoctiorem esse hominem, quam ut medici nostri, aut vel infimo in medicinâ gradui respondere ullo modo posit. Hujus inscitiæ periculum fecimus in Collegio nostro, 17 calend. Marcii, anno 1553, sessione habitâ ejus rei gratiâ. Quo sanè tempore non aliud elucebat præter cæcam audaciam: nam rei medicinæ studium, nec philosophiæ, nec liberalium scientiarum vel gustus quidem aut levis tinctura, nec vel pueilis mædiocritas in respondendo nobis hominem commendabant, si quid in nobis est judicium. Eam ob rem communibus suffragiis et concordi omnium consensu indicatum est, ne admitteretur.” This correspondence occupied several months, and occurred during the presidency of Dr. Caius, of whose zeal it deserves to be recorded. Notwithstanding all this, Ludford was afterwards, 26th June, 1560, admitted doctor of medicine at Oxford, and a Fellow of the College of Physicians 7th April, 1563. “In Comitiis extraordinariis, ascriptus est in Collegium Simon Ludforde, Bedfordiensis, medicinæ doctor Oxon.” This, with the fact that he was Censor in 1564, 1569, 1572, would seem to prove that the deficiencies above mentioned had been overcome by close and successful study.

William Munk

[His will 1575 is at Somerset House (fo.38 ?) Mr J C C Smith’s notes.]

[Letter from Gresham to Burghley, 1573, defending Langton from L’s attacks (Hist.MSS.Comm. Salisbury MSS., ii, 55).]

(Volume I, page 64)

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