William Butler 1535-1618

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William BUTLER 1535-1618

Biographical Note

Born in Ipswich. BA Peterhouse, Cambridge 1561, MA 1564, fellow of [organisations::Clare College, Cambridge|Clare College]]; granted a licence to practice physic by the University in 1572, although he did not take a medical degree. He developed a successful practice as a physician in Cambridge, noted as eccentric, but effective; he was called on to treat royal and other high profile patients. In his will, he described himself as a “student of philosophy and phisicke”.


Butler bequeathed much of his estate to the Cambridge apothecary John Crane (1570/71-1652), with whom he lived, including “all my cabinds, presses and desks, and all my bookes in quarto to the lowest sise, both printed and written”. His folios were all bequeathed to Clare, except for a volume by the Spanish physician Luiz de Mercado, which was left to Crane. A number of Butler’s papers survive in Clare


  • Will, Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor’s Court, 1618.
  • Boss, J. “William Butler (1535-1618)”, Medical History 21 (1977) 434-45.
  • Cooper, Thompson, and Sarah Bakewell. "Butler, William (1535–1618), physician." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Nutton, V. “Dr Butler revisited”, Medical History 22 (1978), 417-30.