Thomas Browne


Thomas Browne

Infobox Scientist
name = PAGENAME
box_width =


image_width =150px
caption = Portrait of Sir Thomas Browne
birth_date = October 19, 1605
birth_place = London
death_date = October 19, 1682
death_place =
residence =
citizenship =
nationality = English
ethnicity =
field = medicine
work_institutions =
alma_mater = Pembroke College, Oxford
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for = Religio Medici
author_abbrev_bot =
author_abbrev_zoo =
influences = Francis Bacon
influenced =
prizes =
religion =
footnotes =

Sir Thomas Browne (October 19, 1605 – October 19, 1682) was an English author of varied works which disclose his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric.

Browne's writings display a deep curiosity towards the natural world, influenced by the Scientific revolution of Baconian enquiry. A consummate literary craftsman, Browne's works are permeated by frequent reference to Classical and Biblical sources and to his own highly idiosyncratic personality. His literary style varies according to genre resulting in a rich, unusual prose that ranges from rough notebook observations to the highest baroque eloquence.

Biography

The son of a silk merchant from Upton, Cheshire, he was born in the parish of St Michael, Cheapside, in London on October 19, 1605. His father died while he was still young and he was sent to school at Winchester College. In 1623 Browne went to Oxford University. He graduated from Pembroke College, Oxford in 1626 after which he studied medicine at various Continental universities, including Leiden, where he received an MD in 1633. He settled in Norwich in 1637 where he practiced medicine and lived until his death in 1682.

His first well-known work bore the Latin title "Religio Medici" (The Religion of a Physician). This work was circulated in manuscript among his friends, and it caused Browne some surprise and embarrassment when an unauthorised edition appeared in 1642, since the work contained a number of religious speculations that might be considered unorthodox. An authorised text with some of the controversial matter removed appeared in 1643. The expurgation did not end the controversy; in 1645, Alexander Ross attacked "Religio Medici" in his "Medicus Medicatus" (The Doctor, Doctored) and in fact the book was placed upon the Papal index of forbidden reading for Catholics in the same year. In "Religio Medici" Browne had confirmed his belief in the existence of witches. It is known that in later life he attended the 1662 Bury St. Edmunds witch trial, [cite web
last = Bunn
first = Ivan
title = The Lowestoft Witches
url=http://www.lowestoftwitches.com/BROWNE.htm
accessdate = 2007-12-15
] where he was influential in the outcome of the trial.cite book | last =Thomas | first =Keith | title =Religion and the Decline of Magic | publisher =Penguin Books | date =1971 | location =London | isbn =0140137440]

In 1646, Browne published "Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or, Enquiries into Very many Received Tenets, and commonly Presumed Truths", whose title refers to the prevalence of false beliefs and "vulgar errors." A sceptical work that debunks a number of legends circulating at the time in a paradoxical and witty manner, it displays the Baconian side of Browne—the side that was unafraid of what at the time was still called "the new learning." The book is significant in the history of science.

Browne's last publication in his life-time,1658 was two philosophical Discourses which are intimately related to each other; the first "Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial or a Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk", occasioned by the discovery of some Bronze Age burials in earthenware vessels found in Norfolk inspired Browne to meditate upon the funerary customs of the world and the fleetingness of earthly fame and reputation.

Urn-Burial's "twin" discourse is "The Garden of Cyrus, or, The Quincunciall Lozenge, or Network Plantations of the Ancients, Artificially, Naturally, and Mystically Considered", whose subject is the quincunx, the arrangement of five units like the five-spot in dice, which Browne uses to demonstrate that the Platonic forms exist throughout Nature.



1671 Knighthood to death

In 1671 King Charles II, accompanied by the Royal Court, visited Norwich. The courtier John Evelyn, who had occasionally corresponded with Browne, took good use of the Royal visit to call upon "the learned doctor" of European fame and wrote of his visit:"His whole house & garden is a paradise and Cabinet of rarieties & that of the best collection, amongst Medails, books, Plants, natural things".

During his visit to Norwich, King Charles II visited Browne's home. A banquet was held in the Civic Hall St. Andrews for the Royal visit. Obliged to honour a notable local, the name of the Mayor of Norwich was proposed to the King for knighthood. The Mayor, however, declined the honour and proposed the name of Browne instead.

Sir Thomas Browne died on 19 October 1682, his 77th birthday. His skull became the subject of dispute when in 1840 his lead coffin was accidentally re-opened by workmen. It was not re-interred until 4 July 1922 when it was registered in the church of Saint Peter Mancroft as aged 316 years.

Literary works

:*"Religio Medici" (1643):*"Pseudodoxia Epidemica" (1646–72):*"Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial" (1658):*"The Garden of Cyrus" (1658):*"A Letter to a Friend" (1656; pub. post. 1690):*"Christian Morals" (1670s; pub. post. 1716):*"Musaeum Clausum" Tract 13 from Miscellaneous Tracts first pub. post. 1684:* See also Library of Sir Thomas Browne

Literary influence

The literary critic Robert Sencourt succinctly assessed Browne as "an instance of scientific reason lit up by mysticism in the Church of England".

Indeed, Browne's paradoxical place in the history of ideas, as both a promoter of the new inductive science, as an adherent of ancient esoteric learning as well as devout Christian greatly contributes to his ambiguity in the history of ideas. Add to this the complexity of his labyrinthine thought and his ornate language, along with his many allusions to the Bible, Classical learning and to a variety of esoteric authors. These combined factors account for why Browne remains little-read and much-misunderstood. However, the influence of his literary style spans four centuries.

In the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson, who shared Browne's love of the Latinate, wrote a brief "Life" in which he praised Browne as a faithful Christian.

In the nineteenth century Browne's reputation was revived by the Romantics. Thomas De Quincey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Charles Lamb (who considered himself the rediscoverer of Browne) were all admirers. The seminal American novelist Herman Melville, heavily influenced by his style, deemed him "a cracked archangel."

The English author Virginia Woolf however wrote of him in 1923,

"Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those that do are the salt of the earth."

In the twentieth century those who have admired the English man of letters include:

* The American natural historian and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould.

* The Theosophist Madame Blavatsky.

* The Scottish psychologist R. D. Laing, who opens his work "The Politics of Experience" with a quotation by him.

* The economist and blogger Tyler Cowen - in [http://www.marginalrevolution.com Marginal Revolution]

* The composer William Alwyn wrote a symphony In 1973 based upon the rhythmical cadences of Browne's literary work "Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial".

* The American author Tony Kushner in 1987 wrote a play upon Browne whose title is "Hydriotaphia".

* The Canadian physician William Osler (1849–1919) the "founding father of modern medicine." was a well-read admirer of Browne.

* The German author W.G. Sebald wrote of Browne in his semi-autobiographical novel "The Rings of Saturn" (1995).

* The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges alluded to Browne throughout his literary writings, from his first publication, "Fervor de Buenos Aires" (1923) until his last years. Such was Borges' admiration of Browne as a literary stylist and thinker that late in his life (Interview April 25th 1980) he stated of himself alluding to his self-portrait in "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" (1940):

* In his short story "The Celestial Omnibus," published in 1911, E. M. Forster makes Browne the first "driver" that the young protagonist encounters on the magical omnibus line that transports its passengers to a place of direct experience of the aesthetic sublime reserved for those who internalize the experience of poetry.

* In "North Towards Home", Willie Morris quotes Sir Thomas Browne's "Urn Burial" from memory as he walks up Park Avenue with William Styron: "'And since death must be the Lucina of life, and even Pagans could doubt, whether thus to live were to die; since our longest sun sets at right descensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long before we lie down in darkness and have our light in ashes…' At that instant I was almost clipped by a taxicab, and the driver stuck his head out and yelled, 'Aincha got eyes in that head, ya bum?'"

* William Styron prefaced his 1951 novel "Lie Down In Darkness" with the same quotation as noted above in the remarks about Willie Morris's memoir. The title of Styron's novel itself comes from that quotation.

* Spanish writer Javier Marías translated two works of Browne, "Religio Medici" and "Hydriotaphia".

On America

Each of Sir Thomas Browne's major writings makes significant mention of America. As a keen geographer, botanist and zoologist Browne wrote on America in his encyclopedia "Pseudodoxia Epidemica". He also employed the proper-place name of America as a symbol of the new, the unknown and the exotic.

Browne's study of nature led him to raise the query in Religio Medici (1643) the zoological puzzle:

In "Pseudodoxia Epidemica" frequent references to America can be found. Indeed its opening address entitled "To the Reader" describes his efforts to determine truth in compiling an encyclopædia:

Throughout his encyclopædia Browne includes speculations and reports from America including mention of the giant "phalanges" spider, speculation as to why American natives skin-pigmentation differs from African natives, makes a geographical comparison of the proportions of the Gulf of California to the Red Sea and collated sundry notes upon its vegetation. He also noted that the Swiss alchemist-physician Paracelsus equated America as representing the rear of the world stating:

The dedicatory epistle of the discourse "The Garden of Cyrus" (1658) humorously makes light of the great volume of printed information available upon the botany of America thus:

The concluding lines of the discourse drowsily contemplates the fact that the world consists of time-zones thus:

As a medical man Browne was appreciative of William Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood (1628). In correspondence he advised

The opening lines of his discourse "Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial" compares the 'discovery' of America to that of a significant archaeological find.

When introduced to the prophecies of Nostradamus sometime in the 1670s Browne wrote a pastiche of the Lyons physician's verses. His miscellaneous tract, "A prophecy concerning the future State of Several Nations" makes several remarkable 'predictions' based upon reason of America's future. In quasi-oracular style Browne challenges the wisdom of the Slave-trade.

Browne 'predicted' that sometime in the distant future America would protect its wealth and be a land pursuing happiness, employing the highly-original phrase, "American Pleasure".

adding the explanatory note:

He also prognosticated America to become the economic equal of Europe:

adding the explanatory note:

These examples of reports upon America's botany, zoology and geography are remarkable for their very earliness in American history for in Browne's day (1605-82) America was a fledging colony; in literary terms his usage of the proper place-name of America as a symbol must also be noted; however, more importantly, it was from reports of the superabundance of America's natural resources, its geographical size and the determination of its founding settlers led one seventeenth century European thinker to perceive America as an exotic continent with great future potential.

Portraits of Sir Thomas Browne

The National Portrait Gallery in London has a fine contemporary portrait of Sir Thomas Browne and his wife Dorothy, Lady Browne (née Mileham). More recent sculptural portraits include Henry Albert Pegram's statue of Sir Thomas contemplating with urn in Norwich. This statue occupies the central position in the Haymarket beside St. Peter Mancroft, not far from the site of his house. It was erected in 1905 and moved from its original position in 1973. In 2005 Robert Mileham’s small standing figure in silver and bronze was commissioned for the 400th anniversary of Browne's birth.

References


*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Breathnach
first=Caoimhghín S
authorlink=
year=2005|month=Jan.

title=Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682)
journal=Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
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pages=33–6
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pmid = 15632239
doi = 10.1258/jrsm.98.1.33
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*cite journal
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last=Mellick
first=Sam
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year=2003|month=Jun.

title=Sir Thomas Browne: physician 1605-1682 and the Religio Medici
journal=ANZ journal of surgery
volume=73
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pages=431–7
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doi=10.1046/j.1445-2197.2003.t01-1-02646.x
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last=Hughes
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year=2001|month=May.

title=The medical education of Sir Thomas Browne, a seventeenth-century student at Montpellier, Padua, and Leiden
journal=Journal of Medical Biography
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*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Böttiger
first=L E
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year=1995|month=Jan.

title= [From Thomas Browne to Dannie Abse. English physicians-writers over four centuries]
journal=Lakartidningen
volume=92
issue=3
pages=176–80
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*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Hookman
first=P
authorlink=
year=1995|month=.

title=A comparison of the writings of Sir William Osler and his exemplar, Sir Thomas Browne
journal=Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine
volume=72
issue=1
pages=136–50
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pmid = 7581308
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*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Dunn
first=P M
authorlink=
year=1994|month=Jan.

title=Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) and life before birth
journal=Arch. Dis. Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed.
volume=70
issue=1
pages=F75–6
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 8117135
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Martens
first=P
authorlink=
year=1992|month=.

title=The faiths of two doctors: Thomas Browne and William Osler
journal=Perspect. Biol. Med.
volume=36
issue=1
pages=120–8
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 1475152
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=White
first=H
authorlink=
year=1988|month=.

title=An introduction to Thomas Browne (1605-1682) and his connections with Winchester College
journal=Journal of Medical Biography
volume=6
issue=2
pages=120–2
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pmid = 11620012
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*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Segall
first=H N
authorlink=
year=1985|month=.

title=William Osler and Thomas Browne, a friendship of fifty-two years; Sir Thomas pervades Sir William's library
journal=Korot
volume=8
issue=11-12
pages=150–65
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 11614038
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Webster
first=A
authorlink=
year=|month=.

title=Threefold cord of religion, science, and literature in the character of Sir Thomas Browne
journal=British medical journal (Clinical research ed.)
volume=285
issue=6357
pages=1801–2
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pmid = 6816374
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*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Dirckx
first=J H
authorlink=
year=1982|month=Oct.

title=Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). A model for medical humanists
journal=JAMA
volume=248
issue=15
pages=1845–7
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pmid = 6750160
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doi=10.1001/jama.248.15.1845
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quotes = yes
last=Huntley
first=F L
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year=1982|month=Jul.

title="Well Sir Thomas?": oration to commemorate the tercentenary of the death of Sir Thomas Browne
journal=British medical journal (Clinical research ed.)
volume=285
issue=6334
pages=43–7
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pmid = 6805807
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*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Shaw
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year=1982|month=Jul.

title=Sir Thomas Browne: the man and the physician
journal=British medical journal (Clinical research ed.)
volume=285
issue=6334
pages=40–2
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 6805806
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Schoeck
first=R J
authorlink=
year=1982|month=.

title=Sir Thomas Browne and the Republic of Letters: Introduction
journal=English language notes
volume=19
issue=4
pages=299–312
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 11616938
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Geis
first=G
authorlink=
coauthors=Bunn I
year=1981|month=.

title=Sir Thomas Browne and witchcraft: a cautionary tale for contemporary law and psychiatry
journal=International journal of law and psychiatry
volume=4
issue=1-2
pages=1–11
publisher = | location =
pmid = 7035381
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

doi=10.1016/0160-2527(81)90017-0
*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Shaw
first=A B
authorlink=
year=1978|month=Jul.

title=Vicary Lecture, 1977. Sir Thomas Browne: the man and the physician
journal=Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
volume=60
issue=4
pages=336–44
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 352233
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Martin
first=D C
authorlink=
year=1976|month=May.

title=Sir Thomas Browne 1605-1682
journal=Investigative urology
volume=13
issue=6
pages=449
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 773893
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Buxton
first=R W
authorlink=
year=1970|month=Dec.

title=Sir Thomas Browne and the Religio Medici
journal=Surgery, gynecology & obstetrics
volume=131
issue=6
pages=1164–70
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 4920856
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Huston
first=K G
authorlink=
year=1970|month=Jul.

title=Sir Thomas Browne, Thomas le Gros, and the first edition of Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1646
journal=Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences
volume=25
issue=3
pages=347–8
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 4912887
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Merton
first=S
authorlink=
year=1966|month=.

title=Old and new physiology in Sir Thomas Browne: digestion and some other functions
journal=Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences
volume=57
issue=2
pages=249–59
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 5335398
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=Keynes
first=G
authorlink=
year=1965|month=Dec.

title=Sir Thomas Browne
journal=British medical journal
volume=2
issue=5477
pages=1505–10
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 5321828
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=DOYLE
first=B R
authorlink=
year=1963|month=Oct.

title=Sir Thomas Browne, Physician And Humanist
journal=McGill medical journal
volume=32
issue=
pages=79–83
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 14074523
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=SCHNECK
first=J M
authorlink=
year=1961|month=Apr.

title=Psychiatric aspects of Sir Thomas BROWNE with a new evaluation of his work
journal=Medical history
volume=5
issue=
pages=157–66
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 13748180
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=FINCH
first=J S
authorlink=
year=1956|month=Aug.

title=The lasting influence of Sir Thomas Browne
journal=Transactions & studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
volume=24
issue=2
pages=59–69
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 13360999
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=MACKINNON
first=M
authorlink=
year=|month=.

title=An unpublished consultation letter of Sir Thomas Browne
journal=Bulletin of the history of medicine
volume=27
issue=6
pages=503–11
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 13115796
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

*cite journal
quotes = yes
last=VIETS
first=H R
authorlink=
year=1953|month=Sep.

title=A fragment from Sir Thomas Browne
journal=N. Engl. J. Med.
volume=249
issue=11
pages=455
publisher = | location = | issn =
pmid = 13087622
bibcode = | oclc =| id = | url = | language = | format = | accessdate = | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote =

External links

* [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/index.html The Sir Thomas Browne Page] at the University of Chicago, a comprehensive site with the complete works — all the works mentioned above, plus the minor works; Samuel Johnson's "Life of Browne", Kenelm Digby's "Observations on Religio Medici", and Alexander Ross's "Medicus Medicatus"; and background material, such as many of Browne's ancient sources.
* [http://essays.quotidiana.org/browne/ Essays by Sir Thomas Browne] at [http://essays.quotidiana.org/ Quotidiana.org] .
* [http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/tbs/default.htm The Thomas Browne Seminar]
* [http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/tbs/TBSBibliography.html Thomas Browne Bibliography]
* [http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Browne_Thomas_Sir A selection of quotations]
* [http://levity.com/alchemy/sir_thomas_browne.html An essay upon Browne's relationship to alchemy]
* [http://www.umilta.net/browne.html Spiritual and literary affinity between Julian of Norwich and Sir Thomas Browne] .
* [http://www.umilta.net/thosbrowne.html Prayer and Prophecy in Browne's life and writings] .
* [http://www.wooster.edu/artfuldodge/interviews/borges.htm Interview with Jorge Luis Borges, April 25 1980, discussing Browne]
*gutenberg author | id=Sir_Thomas_Browne | name=Sir Thomas Browne
* [http://mathdl.maa.org/convergence/1/?pa=quote&sa=browseQuotesFrontEnd&pageNum=2&resultsPerPage=20&sortLetter=b Sir Thomas Browne Quotes] at [http://mathdl.maa.org/convergence/1/ Convergence]

Persondata
NAME=Browne, Thomas, Sir
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Browne, Thomas
SHORT DESCRIPTION=English author
DATE OF BIRTH=October 19, 1605
PLACE OF BIRTH=St Michael, Cheapside, London, England
DATE OF DEATH=October 19, 1682
PLACE OF DEATH=Norfolk, England


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  • Sir Thomas Browne — Arte El arte es la perfección de la naturaleza. La naturaleza hizo un mundo y el arte otro. Bondad El que tiene lo bastante para poder hacer bien a otros, es rico. Crítica El que censura a los demás, indirectamente se alaba a sí mismo. Saber No… …   Diccionario de citas

  • Browne (Familienname) — Browne ist ein Familienname. Varianten Brown Bekannte Namensträger Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Thomas Alexander Browne — (6 August 1826 ndash; 11 March 1915) was an Australian writer, who sometimes published under the pseudonym Rolf Boldrewood and best known for his novel Robbery Under Arms .BiographyBrowne was born in London, the eldest child of Captain Sylvester… …   Wikipedia


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