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J R Soc Med. 2005 March; 98(3): 137–138.
PMCID: PMC1079432

Sir Thomas Browne's birthday

The mistaken belief that Sir Thomas Browne was born on 19 October 1605, exactly 77 years before his death, originated in the anonymous biography preceding Browne's Posthumous Works,1 which included his musings on such a rare coincidence of dates. It gathered credence by frequent repetition, as in Professor Breathnach's appreciative memoir (January 2005, JRSM2), and has endured for nearly 300 years. Yet it should have been abandoned by now.3 Sir Thomas himself, in answer to John Aubrey's request, wrote on 24 August 1672: 'I was borne Novemb. 19, 1605'.4 There is no reason to doubt his word, which was accepted by Anthony Wood for the first biography5 and is affirmed in the recent Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.6

References

1. Browne T. Posthumous Works. London: E Curll & R Gosling, 1712: i-xxiii
2. Breathnach C. Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682). J R Soc Med 2005; 98: 33-6 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Morris GCR. Sir Thomas Browne's Nativity. Notes & Queries. 1983; 30: 420-1
4. Bodleian Library. MS Aubrey: 12, f. 53
5. Wood A. Athenae Oxonienses. London: T Bennet, 1691-2: ii, 535
6. Robbins RH, Browne, Sir Thomas. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004: 8, 206-17

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press