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John Hall, A Stratford Physician: His Practice and Patients

The Usual Practice of Medicine

Physicians in seventeenth-century England topped the medical hierarchy with theoretical oversight of Apothecaries, Surgeons, and Barbers. The physician’s normal practice was advising on matters of physic and the prescription of medications. 

Patients would see the physician and present their symptoms as they understood them, and the physician would also make observations. Sometimes this consultation was done remotely with the patient describing their symptoms in a letter and sometimes sending a sample of urine for the physician to analyse, which is depicted in this seventeenth-century painting. 

The physician then, being familiar with the humoral theory of medicine, and trained in reason and logic, would devise an appropriate treatment that was individualised to the patient’s constitution and their illness. It is clear from Hall’s book that he travelled a great distance to see some of his patients and at other times consulted by letter and urinalysis alone.