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Thomas Cogan and The Haven of Health: Background on Thomas Cogan

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Background on Thomas Cogan

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Not much is known about Thomas Cogan, and his biography is very limited, probably due to lack of documents from the time. It should be noted that Thomas Cogan of the Renaissance, who we are studying here, is not to be confused with another physician named Thomas Cogan, who was relavent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

The common date given for the Renaissance Thomas Cogan's birth is 1545, at Chard, Somersetsire, England. He earned his Bachelors of Arts degree in 1563, his Masters degree in 1566, and finally a Bachelor of Medicine in 1574, all from Oxford Univeristy. After graduating with his Bachelor of Medicine, he relocated to Manchester, where he became not only the leading physician, but the high master at the Manchester Grammar School from 1574 until 1603 when he left his post at the school and devoted most of his time to the continuation of his medical practice. He died in 1607 in Manchester. [1]

The Haven of Health was not the only Renaissance how-to guide that Cogan published in his lifetime. In 1577, a year before receiving his medical degree, he published The Well of Wisdome, containing Chiefe and Chosen Sayinges...gathered out of the Five Bootes of the Olde Testament..., knowledge presumably learned from his years at Oxford, when secular education was coupled with clerical knowledge. Within this book he argues that wisdom, or secular knowledge, is the greatest gift that God bestowed on mankind, and he uses passages from the scriptures as evidence, which he also does in his health guides. 

Sometime between 1585 and 1603, he also published Epistolarum familiarium M. T. Ciceronis epitome …, which was an epistle to his fellow school masters for the instruction of their students, intended to be an introduction to Latin. It is unknown whether he meant to publish more on the subject.

When Cogan published The Haven of Health in 1584, he published with it A Preservative from the Pestilence, with a short censure of the late sickness at Oxford, referring to "The Black Assize," or a strain of typhus which broke out in Oxford seven years before he published his books. Because Cogan was a physician and high master at a school, it would make sense that The Haven of Health, and corresponding preservative, was published for students. After The Black Assize swept through Oxford in 1577, killing at least 300 men (and only men) between July 6 and August 12, he was likely rightly concerned for the health of his pupils. [2] Therefore, the fact that The Haven of Health is 276 pages of practices to "preserueth health & preuenteth sicknes" is no surprise. [3]


[1] George Eric Simpson, "The Haven of Health," The Scientific Monthly, 10 no. 1 (Jan. 1920), 36.

[2] John Snow, "Reports of Societies," British Medical Journal, 2 no. 32 (Aug. 1857), 666.

[3] Thomas Cogan, The Haven of Health: chiefly made for the comfort of students, and consequently for all those that haue a care of their health, amplified vppon fiue wordes of Hippocrates, written Epid. 6. Labour, meate, drinke, sleepe, Venus: by Thomas Cogan maister of Artes, & Bacheler of Phisicke, 1588, Dedicatorie epistle 1.