This distinguished physician was the son of Richard Atkins, of Great Berkhampstead, co. Hertford, gent., and was born in 1558. Being then A.M. of Oxford, he was, on the 4th February, 1586, admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians; a Candidate, 22nd February, 1586; and a Fellow (being then doctor of medicine of Nantes) the last day of February, 1588.
At the annual election of officers, the year of his admission as a Fellow, he was appointed Censor; and was repeatedly re-elected, viz., 1589, 1590, 1592, 1593, 1594, 1595, 1596, 1597, 1599, 1600, 1602, 1603, 1604. On the 3rd August, 1602, he was named Elect; and Consiliarius, 1606, 1612, 1613, 1615, 1618, 1623, 1626, 1627, 1628, 1630, 1631, 1632. On the death of Dr. Langton, then President, he was, 25th October, 1606, elected to that office, which he again filled in 1607, 1608, 1616, 1617, 1624, 1625.
We gather from the Annals some interesting particulars of this active and popular physician. He went in the naval expedition of 1597, in the capacity of physician to the Earl of Essex. "1597. Junii xxv. Dr. Nowell electus est et juratus Censor in absentia Dris Atkins qui in istâ navali expeditione in Hispaniam medicus nobilissimo comiti Essex: assignatus est." The doctor proved, however, so bad a sailor, and suffered so severely in the Channel, that he was obliged to be put on shore.
The College, under these untoward circumstances, was commanded by the queen to select another member of their society, and the choice fell on Dr. Moundeford. "1597. Julii xxvi. Consultatur de medico ad nobilissimum comitem Essex: mittendo ex mandatu regineo, in locum Doctoris Atkins, qui reversus ad Plymouth ex jactatione maris, et vi tempestatis, graviter et periculosè ægrotabat; et per suffragia majoris partis Dr. Moundeford nominatur et eligitur ad negotium".
For the appointment of physician to the lord high admiral Howard, there were many aspirants amongst the Fellows. Of these, the most conspicuous were Dr. Browne and Dr. Marbeck, both of whom, if we may judge from their conduct, made certain of the appointment. The former was one of the Censors, the latter the Registrar; and each made his arrangements in case of being selected. "1596. Aprilis v. Iisdem Comitiis conclusum est, ut si Dr. Browne proficiscatur cum classe regiâ illi in officio Censoris succedat Dr. Langton, et si Dr. Marbeck proficiscatur cum eâdem classe Dr. Wilkinson illius locum occupet donec revertatur." The hopes of Dr. Browne, however, were doomed to be disappointed, and Dr. Marbeck was selected - whether by the queen, the admiral, or the College, I have no means of determining.
Dr. Atkins from the first stood high in the esteem and confidence of James I; and is said to have been offered by his Majesty the first baronet's patent on the institution of that order in 1611 - an honour which he thought fit respectfully to decline. He was one of the principal physicians to that monarch; and, as we learn from the Annals, was one of those deputed by his Majesty, in 1604, to fetch his younger son, subsequently Charles I, then an infant, from Scotland. "1604. Maii iv. Dr. Browne designatus est Censor in locum Dris Atkins, profecti in Scotiam, Regis nostri mandatu pro regis filiolo in Angliam deducendo." [In May 1625 he was appointed Phys "in Ord" to the King (Charles I) with the fee of £100 a year x ? iii Annual Rept of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records. 1882 p.5.]
The presidency of Dr. Atkins was marked by the publication of the first London Pharmacopœia, which appeared in 1618.
Dr Atkins closed an active and useful life at his house in Warwick Court, London, 21st September, 1635, and was buried in Cheshunt Church. His monument therein bears the following inscription: -
Henry Atkins, Dr in Physique, Physician in Ordinary for the space of 32 years to king James and king Charles; was the son of Richard Atkins of Great Barkhamstead in this co. of Hertford Gent. and dyed anno 1635, aged 77, and lyeth here interred in this vault, which hee caused to bee made anno 1623, for himselfe and his only wife Mary, whom he then buryed heere, aged 56, whoe was daughter of Thomas Pigot of Dodershall in the co. of Bucks, esq. They had issue only one son, Sir Henry Atkins, Knt. who, dwelling at Clapham, in the county of Surrey, died anno 1638, aged 44, lyes there buried by his owne appointment.
Dr Atkins died, says Hamey, "agris nummisque dives". He bequeathed to our College one hundred pounds, which was paid by Sir Henry Atkins, upon whom three of the senior fellows were, 6th March, 1635, deputed to wait and present the thanks of the whole society (1).
[(1) "Dr. Atkins Collegii socius et sæpius præses agris nummisque dives decessit 21 Septem. 1634, cujus filius, vir censûs equestris centum librarum donô paternam oblivionem sarciens in pensili nostra benevolorum tabella, memoriam defuncti redintegravit." Bustorum aliquit Reliquiæ authore Baldvino Harvey, M.D.]
[Peachey: Atkins, Henry; certifies as to Sir Edward Hampden (a prisoner)'s health State Papers, p.155.]
[He was one of the physicians in attendance on Prince Henry, 1612. See Welwood's Memoirs, App. p.272.]
[Lysons says he purchased the manor of Clapham for £6,000, the produce of presents from the King for attending the infant Charles when dangerously ill of a fever in Scotland See Wadd's ? chirurgical p.8.]
[No portrait known (re: letter dated 12.2.59 to Mr E. E. Smith, Clapham Antiquarian Soc.)]