Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/French, John

FRENCH, JOHN, M.D. (1616?–1657), physician, born at Broughton, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, in or about 1616, was the son of John French of Broughton. In 1633 he was entered at New Inn Hall, Oxford, where he took the degrees in arts, B.A. 19 Oct. 1637, M.A. 9 July 1640 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 495, 515), then ‘entred on the physic line, practised his faculty in the parliament army by the encouragement of the Fiennes, men of authority in the said army, and at length became one of the two physicians to the whole army, under the conduct of sir Tho. Fairfax, knight. On 14 April 1648, at which time the earl of Pembroke visited this university, he was actually created doctor of physic, being about that time physician to the hospital called the Savoy. … He died in Oct. or Nov. in sixteen hundred fifty and seven, at, or near, Bullogne in France, being then physician to the English army there’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 436–7).

French was the author of:

  1. ‘The Art of Distillation, or a Treatise of the choicest Spagyricall Preparations performed by way of Distillation, being partly taken out of the most select Chymicall Authors of severall Languages, and partly out of the Authors manuall experience; together with the Description of the chiefest Furnaces and Vessels used by ancient and moderne Chymists: also a Discourse of divers Spagyrical Experiments and Curiosities, and of the Anatomy of Gold and Silver with the chiefest Preparations, and Curiosities thereof, and Vertues of them all. All which are contained in six Books,’ 4to, London, 1651 (2nd edit., ‘to which is added, The London Distiller … shewing the way … to draw all sorts of Spirits and Strong-Waters,’ &c., 2 pts. 4to, London, 1653–52; 3rd edit., ‘to which is added Calcination and Sublimation: in two books,’ 2 pts. 4to, London, 1664; 4th edit., 2 pts. 4to, London, 1667).
  2. ‘The Yorkshire Spaw, or a Treatise of four famous Medicinal Wells, viz. the Spaw, or Vitrioline-Well; the Stinking, or Sulphur-Well; the Dropping, or Petrifying-Well; and St. Mugnus-Well, near Knaresborow in Yorkshire. Together with the causes, vertues, and use thereof,’ 8vo, London, 1652 (another edit., 8vo, London, 1654).

In 1760 J. Wood of Bradford had received such benefit by using the waters according to the rules laid down in this treatise that he judged fit to republish it as ‘A Pocket Companion for Harrogate Spaw,’ 12mo, Halifax, 1760, ‘that it might be of use to others.’ French may be the ‘J. F.’ who edited, with a preface, ‘The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus in xvii. Books. Translated … out of the Original into English by that learned divine Doctor Everard,’ 12mo, London, 1650 (another edit., 12mo, London, 1657). He also translated ‘The New Light of Alchymy, and a Treatise of Sulphur, by Michael Sandevogius, with Nine Books of Paracelsus of the Nature of Things; with a Chymical Dictionary explaining hard Places and Words, met withal in the Writings of Paracelsus,’ 4to, London, 1650; from J. R. Glauber, ‘A Description of New Philosophical Furnaces, or A New Art of Distilling, divided into five parts. Whereunto is added a Description of the Tincture of Gold, or the true Aurum Potabile; also the First Part of the Mineral Work … Set forth in English by J. F. D.M.,’ 5 pts. 4to, London, 1651–2; from H. C. Agrippa, ‘Three Books of Occult Philosophy … Translated … by J. F.,’ 4to, London, 1651.

[Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 106, 115; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. G.