Age in Old England

The problems of later life are always with us, writes Steven R. Smith. Among those who have studied them are both a famous philosopher and a renowned physician.

About three hundred years ago, a physician in northern England submitted to the Royal Society a list of persons in that region who had lived to the age of one hundred or older. He attributed their longevity to the coarse diet of most people in the mountains. While he listed several persons who had lived for more than a hundred years, no one on his list had lived as long as the seventeenth century’s most famous old man, Thomas Parr, who was allegedly 152 when he died in 1635.

His death then was attributed to suffocation. William Harvey, the era’s most distinguished physician, examined Parr’s body and found it to be in good condition except for the heart. Harvey reported that ‘had nothing happened to interfere with the old man’s habits of life,’ he might have lived even longer. Parr had died after moving to London where the air was not so pure as in the countryside in which he had spent most of his life.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.