John GerrardJohn Gerard, the compiler of one of the most influential herbals of the Tudor era, was born at Nantwich, Cheshire, in 1545, and went to school at Willaston, 2 miles away. At the age of 17 he was apprenticed to Alexander Mason, a successful surgeon. After completing his medical studies, Gerard travelled widely in Scan­dinavia and Russia - a considerable undertaking at that time -and maybe also in the Mediterranean region, though the records are less clear about this.

In 1595 Gerard was elected to high office in the Barber-Surgeons Company. By this time he had a high reputation as a herbalist, and supervised the gardens of Lord Burghley in the Strand, and at Theobalds in Hertfordshire. Gerard had a garden of his own, too, in Holborn, and in 1596 he published a descriptive list of all the plants in this garden. This was a novel idea at the time, and one which had considerable influence on later writers, in its methodical and scientific approach. A second edition, containing both Latin and English names of the plants, was published in 1599.

The book on which Gerard's reputation now stands, his great 'Herball' was published in 1597, with a dedication to Lord Burghley. It consisted to a large degree of translations from classical writers, but to these Gerard added his own observations and comments; for example, descriptions of the habitat and manner of growth of plants, and the regions in Europe and the British Isles where some of the rarer plants could be found.

Gerard eventually became 'herbalist' to James I, and in 1607 he was elected Master of the Barber-Surgeons Company. These two appointments make it clear that at this period no conflict of interests was felt between these two branches of medicine. A marked contrast is seen if we compare this situation with the life and career of NICHOLAS CULPEPER a generation later. John Gerard died at the age of 67, 19 February 1612.

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