Skeptical and Natural Philosophy

Medicine and Philosophy

How did Robert Burton apply scientific methods to his own mind?

Robert Burton (1577–1640) spent most of his life at Oxford University, where he was vicar of St. Thomas Church. He was later appointed rector of Segrave, Leicester. He was a mathematician with interests in astrology and was known to be companionable and cheerful. However, he suffered all his life from “a heavy heart and hatchling in my head, a kind of imposthume in my head, which I was very desirous to be unladen of.” In the preface to The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) he explained the work as therapeutic: “I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy. There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness, no better cure than business.”


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