Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baskerville, Simon

BASKERVILLE, Sir SIMON, M.D. (1574–1641), physician, son of Thomas Baskervile or Baskerville, apothecary, and sometime one of the stewards of Exeter, who was descended from the ancient family of the Baskerviles in Herefordshire, was baptised at the church of St. Mary Major, Exeter, on 27 Oct. 1574. After receiving a suitable preliminary education, he was sent to Oxford, and matriculated on 10 March 1591 as a member of Exeter College, where he was placed under the care of William Helm, a man famous for his piety and learning. On the first vacancy he was elected a fellow of the college before he had graduated B.A., and he did not take that degree till 8 July 1596. Subsequently he proceeded M.A. On the occasion of King James I's visit to the university, Baskervile was ‘chosen as a prime person to dispute before him in the philosophic art, which he performed with great applause of his majesty, who was not only there as a hearer, but as an accurate judge.’ Turning his attention to the study of physic, he graduated M.B. on 20 June 1611, and was afterwards created doctor in that faculty. He seems to have practised at Oxford for some years with considerable success. Then he removed to London, where he was admitted a candidate in the College of Physicians on 18 April 1614 and a fellow on 20 March 1614–15. He was censor of the college in 1615 and several subsequent years, anatomy reader in 1626, and consiliarius in 1640. He attained to great eminence in his profession, and was appointed physician to James I and afterwards to Charles I, who conferred on him the honour of knighthood 30 Aug. 1636. Dr. Baldwin Hamey says: ‘Rex autem in Bibliotheca Oxoniensi, tanquam in acie sui generis instructissima eundem in Equestrem cooptavit’ (MS. Sloan. 2149, p. 9). It is related that he had no fewer than a hundred patients a week, and that he amassed so much wealth as to acquire the title of ‘Sir Simon Baskerville the rich.’ Further it is recorded of him ‘that he was a great friend to the clergy and the inferior loyal gentry,’ insomuch that ‘he never took a fee of an orthodox minister under a dean, nor of any suffering cavalier in the cause of Charles I under a gentleman of an hundred a year, but with physick to their bodies generally gave relief to their necessities’ (Lloyd, Memoires, ed. 1677, p. 635).

He died on 5 July 1641, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, where a mural monument, with a Latin epitaph, was erected to his memory.

[Prince's Worthies of Devon, 93; Biog. Brit. (Kippis), i. 670; MS. Addit. 34102, f. 204 b; Dugdale's St. Paul's, 106, 107; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 272, 316, 342, 343; Fuller's Worthies (1662), i. 276; Munk's Coll. of Physicians (1878), i. 158.]

T. C.