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

Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (1670-1722)

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Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (1670-1722)

Reasons for naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland, On the same foot with all other Nations. Containing also A Defence of the Jews against All vulgar Prejudices in all Countries

First published in 1714, shortly after the succession of George I to the British throne, Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland is widely seen as a landmark work in the movement for emancipation and equal citizenship of the Jewish people.

While some would argue that the case being presented by Toland is best understood in the context of British political life of the time, it is generally agreed that it represents a remarkable work: one that, in many ways, is well ahead of its time.

Toland's work has been seen as influential on a number of fronts. It shows Toland as a skilled and fearless commentator; one who accepted nothing at face value but always brought an independent mind to bear on any issue he tackled:

"A dog will run at a stone, when he dares not attack the man that threw it."
"I am not ignorant how much the world is governed by prejudices, and how farr some, who wou'd not be counted of the vulgar, are yet sway'd by vulgar errors. ... But one rule of life, which is willingly admitted, nay, and eagerly pleaded by all Societies in their own case (tho miserably neglected in that of others) is, not to impute the faults of a few to the whole number."

The Foreign and Protestants Naturalization Act of 1709 allowed immigrants to claim British citizenship upon swearing an oath of allegiance to the British throne, and taking the sacrament in a Protestant church. In this pamphlet Toland is calling for the same privileges to be extended to the Jews.

This edition of John Toland's pamphlet has been faithfully reproduced from the original with an Introduction, editor's notes and a Chronology of Toland, his life and times. Previously available only in facsimile editions, the text has been reset using a modern typeface but with original spelling, emphasis and formats preserved.

Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (1670-1722)
Non fiction, essay, political philosophy, emancipation, civil rights

68 printed pages with black & white facsimile illustrations, paperback
First published in London in 1714. This edition published in Ireland, in 2012, by The Manuscript Publisher.
ISBN: 978-0-9571157-8-1

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