Brasenose College, Oxford - William Petty, Scientist, political economist, doctor and more
By the time William
Petty was elected a Fellow of Brasenose in 1650 he had already served as a
cabin boy in the Navy, had studied medicine, mathematics and chemistry on the
continent, had been appointed Professor of Music at Gresham
College and was taking over the
teaching of anatomy in Oxford
Within five months of
his election as Fellow he was granted a leave of absence and became physician
to the army in Ireland,
subsequently taking over the surveying of the country as well. His leaves of absence continued until 1659,
when the College declared his fellowship void because of his absence and his
increased private income.
Petty was a founder member of the Royal Society, an inventor, statistician, naval architect, cartographer and political economist, his most famous work in the latter field being his Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (1662). But his popular fame rests on an event which took place when he was reader in anatomy at Oxford in 1650. The custom was for Oxford medical students to practice human dissection on the bodies of executed criminals, and Petty duly received the body of Anne Green, hanged for the murder of her illegitimate child. However, she was found to be alive, and Petty and his colleague revived her. She went on to marry, bear three children and live for another fifteen years.