Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Burnet, Thomas (1632?-1715?)

BURNET, Sir THOMAS (1632?–1715?), physician, was son of Robert Burnet, lawyer and advocate of Edinburgh, and was thus brother of Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury [q. v.] He must have been born between 1630 and 1640 (the date 1632 is given in Billings's ‘Catalogue of Surgeon-General's Library, U.S.,’ but on what authority does not appear). He studied and graduated in medicine at Montpellier, being already M.A., and the theses which he defended for his degree on 26–28 Aug. 1659 show that his medical knowledge was mainly based upon Galen and Hippocrates. He returned to Edinburgh and practised there. Burnet is named in the original charter of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, granted in 1681, as a fellow. He was physician to Charles II, and apparently to his successor; certainly also to Queen Anne. He was knighted some time before 1691, and died, it is stated, in 1715. His son, Thomas Burnet, graduated M.D. at Leyden in 1691. Burnet was an eminent physician in his day, and his reputation was spread all over Europe by his books, especially by the ‘Thesaurus Medicinæ,’ which was very often reprinted, and was evidently a useful compendium of the knowledge of the time. An abridgment was published by the author himself in 1703. His ‘Hippocrates Contractus’ is an abridgment in Latin of the most important works of Hippocrates. He wrote: ‘Currus Iatrikus triumphalis, &c. … ad Apollinarem laudem consequendam’ (theses for obtaining a license), Montpel. 1659, 4to; and ‘Quæstiones quatuor cardinales pro supremâ Apollinari daphne consequenda,’ ibid. 1659, 4to (for doctor's degree). They are in Brit. Mus. Library. ‘Thesaurus Medicinæ practicæ ex præstantissimorum medicorum observationibus collectus,’ London, 1672, 4to. Other editions are given, viz. London, 1673, 1685; Geneva, 1697, 1698, 12mo, edited by Dan. Puerarius (two vols.). ‘Thesauri Medicinæ practicæ breviarium,’ Edin. 1703, 12mo. ‘Hippocrates Contractus,’ s. l. (Edin.?) 1685, 12mo; London, 1686, 12mo; Venice, 1733, 1737, 1751, 8vo; Strasburg, 1765, 8vo. It has not been found possible to verify the existence of all the above-named editions.

[Historical Sketch of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 1882; Life of Bishop Gilbert Burnet (by his son) in his History of my own Time; Burnet's Works.]

J. F. P.