Jonathan Goddard (1617–1675) was an English physician, known both as army surgeon to the forces of Oliver Cromwell, and as an active member of the Royal Society.
His father Henry Goddard was a wealthy shipbuilder in Deptford. A student at the Magdalen Hall, Oxford, he qualified in medicine at the University of Cambridge. He joined the College of Physicians in 1643, and became physician to Charles I of England when he was held captive by Parliament. In the 1650s he was made Warden of Merton College, Oxford (1651), and was one of the 'Oxford club' group around John Wilkins. He was also a Member of Parliament for Oxfordshire in the Barebone's Parliament of 1653. He became Professor of Physic at Gresham College in 1655.
He was one of five doctors attending Cromwell when he died (the others being George Bate, John Bathurst, Thomas Trapham and Laurence Wright).
On the English Restoration of 1660, he lost his position at Merton. But his early position in the Royal Society was solid (he became a founding Fellow in November, 1660), and indeed at the beginning of 1661, when the Society was homeless and moved to Gresham College, it met in his lodgings.
Charles II was on his deathbed in 1685; the monarch had suffered a stroke. Doctors tried everything to save him, but the king was convinced that one particular remedy would work.
Years before, the new king had paid Oliver Cromwell’s doctor and chemist, Jonathan Goddard, a handsome sum for the secret formula for Goddard’s Drops. The chemist claimed his invention, which later came to be known as King’s Drops, was a kind of miracle cure for all manner of ailments. The recipe for this liquid concoction was complex, involving numerous components and multiple distillations, but its efficacy supposedly hinged on one crucial ingredient: a powder consisting of five pounds of crushed human skulls.
Not just any skulls would do. According to medical wisdom of the time, the bones of an elderly person might contain some of the same illness the King’s Drops were meant to cure. “Ideally, [the skull] would be from someone who died a violent death at a young, healthy age,” says Lydia Kang, co-author of Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything. “You wanted somebody who died in the prime of their life, so execution and war were ideal ways to get these products.”
By the end of his life, doctors were pouring 40 drops of this gruesome elixir down Charles II’s throat daily. Needless to say, the potion didn’t have its desired effect.
King’s Drops and other bogus medical treatments may have sped up his demise on February 6, 1685. Yet the fact that the drops failed to save Charles didn’t deter many other English people from making and drinking the concoction.
For more on Corpse Medicine, but not Dr. Goddard or Charles II, see:
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.