Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665), Naval commander, diplomat and scientist
Sitter in 24 portraits
A founding fellow of the Royal Society, Digby was a prominent Royalist who served as Chancellor to Queen Henrietta Maria. His social position added lustre to the new body and he was invited to write the Society's first authorised publication, A Discourse Concerning the Vegetation of Plants (1661). However, Digby increasingly fell out of step with the approach to scientific enquiry that the Society wished to promote. His interests lay in alchemy, the attempt to turn base metals into gold, and a 'sympathetic powder', which he claimed could heal a wound by being applied to the weapon that had inflicted it. His prolific writings include an attack on Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici, and collections of culinary and medicinal recipes.
by Michael Burghers
line engraving, 1674