Edwardes (or Edguardus), David

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Edwardes (or Edguardus), David

(b. Northamptonshire, England, 1502; d. Cambridge [?], England, ca 1542)


Edwardes was admitted on 9 August 1517 as a scholar to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where at different times he seems temporarily to have held the readership in Greek, and became B.A. in 1521 and M.A. in 1525. Additionally it appears that he had “seven years study of medicine” at Oxford, and at some undetermined time practiced that profession at Bristol. In 1528–1529 he continued his medical studies at Cambridge, where he became a member of the medical faculty, a position that he retained until his death.

Edwardes produced a small book of two treatises (London, 1532), the first entitled De indiciis et praecognitionibus, dealing with uroscopy and medical prognostication; the second,In anatomicen introductio luculenta et brevis, dedicated to the earl of Surrey, was the first work published in England to be devoted solely to anatomy. The latter treatise contains reference to Edwardes’ dissection of a human body in 1531 at or near Cambridge, the first recorded, although legally unsanctioned, human dissection in England. The work is brief, occupying only fifteen printed pages, and follows the pattern of exposition popularized by Mondino, that is, progressing from the most to the least corruptible parts. It displays a scorn of medieval anatomy and, in contrast, reflects the new, humanistic Greek anatomical nomenclature. In fact, Edwardes’ occasional use of words and phrases in Greek letters is one of the first such instances in England. The anatomical content of the treatise is mostly Galenic in character, although the author was sufficiently under Aristotelian and Avicennan influence to describe a three-chambered heart. Astonishingly for the time, he referred to the left kidney as being higher than the right, a statement that ran counter to the accepted Galenic doctrine and clearly demonstrated the use of independent observation and judgment.

Edwardes’ treatise on anatomy antedated the development of anatomical studies in England by almost a generation and, perhaps for this reason, appears to have been utterly without influence.


The combination of Edwardes’ two treatises is known today only in the copy in the British Museum Library. There is a second copy of De indiciis et praecognitionibus in the library of the Royal Society of Medicine, London. A facsimile of In anatomicen introductio luculenta et brevis, with an English translation and such slight biographical information about Edwardes as exists, is to be found in David Edwardes. Introduction to Anatomy 1532, C. D. O’Malley and K. F. Russell, eds. (London, 1961).

C. D. O’Malley

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