Browne, Sir Thomas (1605–1682)
An English physician whose evidence in a witchcraft trial in
1664 is said to have assisted the conviction of two women. The
accused were Amy Duny and Rose Cullender, arraigned before
Sir Matthew Hale at Bury St. Edmunds. Asked by Hale for his
opinion, Browne commented, ‘‘That the fits were natural, but
heightened by the devils co-operating with the malice of the
witches, at whose instance he did the villainies,’’ citing similar
cases in Denmark.
Browne was born on October 19, 1605, in London, England.
After receiving degrees in medicine from the University of Leyden
and Oxford, he practiced medicine in Norwich, England
until his death on October 19, 1682. Besides his famous Religio
Medici (1642) and Urn Burial (1658), Browne was chiefly celebrated
by the manner in which he combated fallacies in a work
entitled Pseudoxia Epidemica (1658), an essay on popular errors
in which he examined beliefs accepted in his time as veritable
facts, then proved them to be false or doubtful. Although the
author frequently replaced one error by another, on the whole
his book is accurate, especially considering the date of its composition.
The work is divided into seven books, each of which
deals with a particular set of errors those springing from man’s
love of the marvelous; those arising from popular beliefs concerning
plants and metals; absurd beliefs connected with animals;
errors relative to man; errors recorded by pictures and
cosmographical and historical errors and certain commonly accepted
absurdities concerning the wonders of the world. The
charges of atheism against him, which arose with the publication
of this work, stimulated him to publish his famous Religio
Medici.
His strangest literary conceit was The Garden of Cyrus (1658),
an exhaustive survey of the quincunx (a special arrangement
of five objects).

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