LINACRE, Thomas

(c. 1460-1524)
A principal figure of late-fifteenth- and sixteenth-century English humanism, Thomas Linacre was a proponent of Greek scholarship as a means of recovering the medical knowledge of antiquity. A lack of documentary evidence leaves particular facts about his life uncertain. He was born around 1460 in Canterbury, where he seems to have attended the school of Christ Church Monastery. By age twenty he was at Oxford and became a fellow of All Souls College in 1484. Three years later he journeyed to Florence to study Greek under Politian and Chalcondylas in the company of William Grocyn and William Lily. After a brief stay in Rome, he took up medical studies at the University of Padua and received his doctorate in 1496. Thereafter, Linacre fell in with the circle of scholars surrounding the printer Aldus Manutius of Venice, whom he assisted in the preparation of a Greek edition of the works of Aristotle.
By 1499 Linacre was back at Oxford, where his degree from Padua was officially recognized. His scholarly reputation led to an appointment as the tutor of Henry VII's son Arthur, to whom he dedicated his translation of Proclus's De sphaera. He also gave private instruction in Greek to a body of students, including Sir Thomas More.* In 1509 Linacre became royal physician to Henry VIII,* and his practice extended to such notable clients as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, William Warham, and Desiderius Erasmus.*
The improvement of contemporary medicine through the accurate translation of classical medical texts became one of Linacre's primary concerns in later life. With the publication of De sanitate tuenda (1515), he began a series of Latin translations of the works of Galen that continued to appear on European presses well after his death. Although his work had greater impact abroad, he continued to oppose popularized and erroneous medical practice in England by promoting its regulation. The principal accomplishment of his life came in 1518 with his involvement in the foundation of the Royal College of Physicians, which held the power of licensure of physicians in and around London. He served as president of the college until his death in 1524.
Bibliography
F. Maddison, M. Pelling, and C. Webster, eds., Essays on the Life and Work of Thomas Linacre, c. 1460-1524, 1977.
C. D. O'Malley, English Medical Humanists, 1965.
Michael J. Medwick

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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