Chamberlen (the Elder), Peter

Chamberlen (the Elder), Peter
SUBJECT AREA: Medical technology
b. c. 1601 London, England
d. 22 December 1683 Woodham Mortimer, Essex, England
English obstetrician who was a member of a family of obstetricians of the same name who made use of a secret design of obstetric forceps (probably designed by him).
Of Huguenot stock, his ancestor William having probably come to England in 1569, he was admitted to Cambridge University in 1615 at the age of 14. He graduated Doctor of Medicine in Padua in 1619, having also spent some time at Heidelberg. In 1628 he was elected a Fellow of the College of Physicians, though with some reservations on account of his dress and conduct; these appear to have had some foundation for he was dismissed from the fellowship for repeated contumacy in 1659. Nonetheless, he was appointed Physician in Ordinary to Charles I in 1660. There are grounds for suspecting that in later years he developed some signs of insanity.
Chamberlen was engaged extensively in the practice of midwifery, and his reputation and that of the other members of the family, several of whom were also called Peter, was enhanced by their possession of their own pattern of obstetric forceps, hitherto unknown and kept carefully guarded as a family secret. The original instruments were discovered hidden at the family home in Essex in 1815 and have been preserved by the Royal Society of Medicine. Chamberlen appears to have threatened the physicians' obstetric monopoly by attempting to organize mid-wives into a corporate company, to be headed by himself, a move which was successfully opposed by the College of Physicians.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Physician in Ordinary to King Charles I, King Charles II, King James II, Queen Mary and Queen Anne.
1662, The Accomplished Midwife. The Sober Mans Vindication, discovering the true cause and manner how Dr. Chamberlen came to be reported mad, London.
Further Reading
Mariceau, 1668, Des Malades des femmes grosses et accouchées, Paris. J.H.Aveling, 1883, The Chamberlens and the Midwifery Forceps, London.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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