Lives of the fellows

George Owen

b.? d.18 October 1558
MD Oxon(1527) FRCP(1545)

George Owen, M.D., was born in the diocese of Worcester, and educated at Oxford. He became probationer fellow of Merton college in 1519, and took his degree of doctor of physic at Oxford in 1527. Soon after his graduation, he was appointed physician to Henry VIII., [George Owen: physician to Henry VIII (B.M.J., 1946 (i), p.436)] in which office he also served Edward VI. and Queen Mary. [See Vicary (T.) Anatomie of the bodie of man. 1888. p.233.] He was admitted a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians 25th June, 1545; an Elect 1552, in place of Dr. John Chambre deceased; and on the 2nd October, 1553, was elected President, to which office he was re-appointed the following year.

His station at court, and the testimony of respectable contemporaries, sufficiently assure us of his high character in the profession; but few particulars of his life are recorded. He was one of the subscribing witnesses to the will of Henry VIII., who left him a legacy of one hundred pounds. [P: Cuttings refer to two houses - Yarnton Manor, near Oxford, and the Manor of Chrubwell, Butcombe, Somerset - given by Henry VIII to G.O. (the latter in Collinson's History of Somerset, vol.2. p.315, the former in an undated 'Times').] It has been said that Edward VI. was brought into the world by Dr. Owen, who is reported to have performed the Caesarian operation on his mother. [Doubtful if it was a Caesarian. Info in Munk from Wood. But T. Fuller does not say Caesarian. See letter from Dr. R. J. Heatherington 7/7/1982 in 92 Owen.] From this circumstance, whether truly or falsely related, we may conclude him to have been a practitioner in midwifery, as well as in physic.

In the 1 Mary he was instrumental in obtaining an Act for the confirmation and enlargement of the powers of the College. Some time after, upon occasion of a difference between the College of Physicians and the University of Oxford concerning the admission by the latter of Simon Ludford and David Laughton to the degree of bachelor of medicine, Cardinal Pole, then chancellor of the university, compelled that body to consult with Dr. Owen and Dr. Thomas Huys, the Queen's physicians, "de instituendis rationibus quibus Oxoniensis academia in admittendis medicis uteretur." An agreement was in consequence made, which the chancellor approved and ratified by his authority. We learn little further concerning this eminent physician, except that he enjoyed for several years before his death divers lands and tenements near Oxford, which had formerly belonged to religious houses, and were conferred upon him by the favour of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. [P: See 'Bygone Berkshire', 1896. p.71.] [Hadason William Owen m. Ursula Fettiplace of Cumnor. 1558. ibid.] It may therefore appear strange, that one of his descendants should be condemned to death in the year 1615, for maintaining the legality of killing a prince excommunicated by the Pope.

The death of Dr. Owen, which took place from an epidemic intermittent fever, is thus recorded by Dr. Caius: - "Georgius Owen, regius medicus et doctor Oxon. obiit die xviii. Octobris (1558), et sepultus est apud S. Stephanum in Walbroke Londoni, xxiv. ejusdem mensis" (1). He was the author of a treatise entitled A Meet Diet for the New Ague set forth by Mr. Owen. Fol. Lond. 1558. [His will is at Somerset House (folio II ?) Mr J C C Smith's Notes.]

William Munk

[(1) Aiken's Biographical Memoirs, p.68.]

[George Owen added to the endowment of John Foster's almshouses (three Kings of Cologne?) in Bristol, 1553 - tablet on wall outside (9/1976)]

(Volume I, page 36)

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