On This Day | Physic without Physician by John Toland (1670-1722)

On This Day | Physic without Physician by John Toland (1670-1722)

Physic without Physicians by John Toland

– new edition, faithfully reproduced from the original, first published in 1726 –

John Toland, the Irish-born rationalist philosopher died on this day in 1722. His last words (according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography) are said to have been, “I am poisoned by a physician.”

Though these words are not confirmed, it is documented that shortly before his death, having suffered a bout of illness from which he never fully recovered, Toland wrote a short dissertation in the form of a letter to a friend, Barnham Goode, entitled Physic without Physicians. It was subsequently published in 1726, as part of A Collection of Several Pieces of Mr. Toland (volume ii).

In Physic without Physicians, Toland invokes the ancient writings of Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates of Kos, in addition to contemporaries, such as Herman Boerhaave (frequently hailed as ‘the Dutch Hippocrates’ and the ‘father of physiology’) and Richard Mead, whose work, at the time, was considered to be ground breaking in terms of its understanding of transmissible diseases. Of Hippocrates, Toland says, “We may as successfully batter Quackery by his authority, as we do superstition by that of the Bible.”

While it exists today as a relatively obscure tract, by a largely forgotten author, it has not gone unnoticed over the years and continues to be studied for the arguments that are presented and the lucidness of its tone.

Following the teachings of the ancients, Toland maintains that the task of pharmacists has historically been to discredit natural and traditional methods and cures in the name of their ‘mysterious’ chemical compositions.

Dr Jordi Morillas, from a review of Physic without Physicians, translated by the author from the original Spanish – John Toland, Medicina sin médicos, 1722

Taken as a whole, the target of Toland’s polemic is not so much medical knowledge itself (which he asserts to be “the gift of God and Nature”), but rather upon the limitations of its practitioners and “the danger of trusting our life to those who practise it: while by our own care and experience we might easily provide such medicines as are proper and necessary for us.”

Physic without Physicians has now been re-issued in a new, modern and standalone edition but faithfully reproduced from the original, as part of the John Toland centenaries project. It is available to buy online, in print and e-book editions, along with other books by or relating to John Toland (1670-1722).

John Toland: Man of Ardagh

John Toland’s story starts on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal in 1670. He died in Putney, then a parish outside London, England on 11 March 1722.

The tercentenary of John Toland’s death was marked, in 2022, with a special commemoration in his home place of Ardagh, on the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal.

“If you would know him, study his writings.”

– John Toland (1670-1722), from his self-penned epitaph

Books by or Pertaining to John Toland

An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover by John Toland (1670-1722)

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An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover; sent to a Minister of State in Holland by John Toland (1670-1722)

General Editor: J.N. Duggan

Even after more than 300 years, John Toland's Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover remains highly readable and continues to be cited by historians of the period. It gives us an engaging and accessible picture of life in those German courts, and of the people who inhabited them at the turn of the 17th to 18th Century.

Toland travelled to Hanover in 1701, with Lord Macclesfield's delegation, to deliver the Act of Succession to the Electress Sophia. The Act named Sophia and her Protestant descendants as heirs to the British throne, should Queen Anne die without leaving a successor.

Toland was well received by Sophia, who also introduced him to the court philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. The following year, he visited the court of Berlin, where he was received by the Electress’s daughter, the Queen in Prussia, Sophia Charlotte. His impressions and observations of those visits are recorded in this Account and faithfully preserved in this new edition.

This new edition includes a Foreword, editor's notes, list of Members of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover in 1705, a Chronology of Toland, his life and times.


An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover; sent to a Minister of State in Holland by John Toland (1670-1722)
Non-fiction, European history, Germany, 18th century, travelogue
98 printed pages with black & white facsimile illustrations, paperback
First published in London, England in 1705. This edition published in Ireland, in 2013, by The Manuscript Publisher.
ISBN: 978-0-9576729-1-8


Also Available in e-Book Editions

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Kindle devices are available to purchase online from Amazon and Amazon UK, along with other Amazon domains.

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