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<span>Known as the first history of medicine written by an Englishman, the genesis of John Freind&rsquo;s <a href=""><em><span>The History of Physick</span></em></a> contains a small, though interesting, political story.&nbsp;</span>

History of Medicine Blog Series: John Freind, The History of Physick (1725-1726)

An image of cover of the book 'The History of Physick (1725-1726)' by John Freind

Known as the first history of medicine written by an Englishman, the genesis of John Freind’s The History of Physick contains a small, though interesting, political story. John Freind (1675-1728) was a prominent public figure when he became caught up in English politics concerning the succession of the throne by a Catholic or Protestant king. Labeled a Jacobite, Freind was put in the Tower of London for his role in these political activities. It was there that he began working on his two-volume book. It is said that his friend Richard Mead, who was physician to the first prime minister, Robert Walpole, refused to treat the minister unless he released Freind. John Freind was ultimately released after three months, most likely due to the pleas of Mead and others.[1] The copy of the book in the History of Medicine Collection is the 1725/1726 first edition and stands as a significant text of medical history.

An original first edition of this two-volume work is available in the Ruth Lilly Medical Library’s History of Medicine Collection (Call Number: Z40 F865H 1725 pts. 1 and 2)

A digitized version is available online through the Wellcome Library’s digital collections:



[1] For a more detailed account of Freind's political dealings and his life in general, see J.S. Rowlinson, "John Freind: Physician, Chemist, Jacobite, and Friend of Voltaire's," Notes & Records of the Royal Society 61, no. 2 (2007): 109–127,

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Safar Saydshoev