Let’s Talk About: Gems From Old Family Histories

Transcript from Genealogy of the Anthony Family from 1495-1904, compiled by

Charles L. Anthony in 1904.

Page 18-20:  Dr. Francis Anthony, London, born 1550, died 1623. A very learned physician and chemist of the last century. His father was an eminent goldsmith in the city of London and had employment of considerable value in the jewel office of Queen Elizabeth. This son was born April 16, 1550, and having been carefully instructed in the first rudiments of learning at home, was send, about the year 1569 to the University of Cambridge, where he studied with great diligence and success and sometime in the year 1574 took the degree of Master of Arts. It appears from his writing that he applied himself for many years and studied the theory and practice of chemistry, leaving Cambridge at the age of 40. He began soon after his arrival, to publish to the world the effects of his chemical studies and in the year 1598 send abroad his first treatise concerning the excellency of a medicine drawn from gold. He commenced medical practice in London without a license from the College of Physicians, and after six months was called before the President and Censors of the College, A.D. 1600.

He was interdicted (forbidden/prohibited) to practice; for disregarding this injunction, he was fined five pounds and committed to prison, whence he was released by a warrant of the Lord Chief Justice. The college however got him recommitted and Anthony submitted.

Being again prosecuted for the same offense and refusing to pay a heavy fine, he was kept in prison eight months until released on petition of his wife on the grounds of poverty in 1602. But he continued to practice in defiance of the college and further proceedings were threatened but not carried out, probably because Anthony had powerful friends in court.

His practice consisted chiefly, if not entirely, in the prescription and sale of a secret remedy called “Aurum Potable,” from which he derived a considerable fortune.

He died May 26, 1623, leaving two sons, John and Charles (by his first wife, Susan Howe). John became a physician in London and Charles practiced at Bedford. He died in his seventy-fourth year and was buried in the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. In the aisle that joins the north side of the chancel, a handsome monument has been erected to his memory with a very remarkable inscription:

“Sacred to the memory of the worth and learned

Francis Anthony, Dr of Physic

There needs no verse to beautify they praise,

Or keep in memory thy spotless name

Religion, virtue and they skill did raise

A three-fold pillar to thy lasting fame

Though poisonous envy ever fought to blame

Or hide the fruits of thy intention,

Yet shall they comment that high design

Of purest gold to make a medicine,

That feels they help by that, thy rare invention.”

The career of Dr. Anthony and his conflict with the College of Physicians illustrated the condition of the medical profession in the 17th century. He was obnoxious to the college, not only because he practiced without a license, but because he kept the composition of his remedy a secret and put it forward as a panacea for all diseases…… the efficacy of the remedy, if any as a cordial, was possibly due to certain ethers which would form in the process of distillation and also to the good canary wine in which it was ultimately dissolved…… the secret recipe was long in Dr. Anthony’s family and very beneficial to them. (They made lots of money!)

Pages 18-21 gives a few more details but I’ve shared the gist of the story.  If anyone would like to know more about Aurum Potable, click to Marieke Hendriksen’s article, published online in 2013, which I found on Google: “Arum Potabile and the tears of brides: A history of drinkable gold.”

Gold anyone? And you thought gold was only for jewelry!