Views & Reviews Medical Classics

A Boke or Counseill against the Disease Commonly Called the Sweate or the Sweating Sickness

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 29 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1159
  1. John Black, retired consultant paediatrician
  1. Framlingham, Suffolk
  1. dorothyblack{at}

    Sweating sickness was a disease of unknown cause and very high mortality that first appeared in England in 1485. John Caius's book is our main source of knowledge about the disease, outbreaks of which recurred until 1578.

    John Caius was born in Norwich in 1510. He entered Gonville Hall in Cambridge in 1529 and then moved to Padua to study under Vesalius. He refounded his former college as Gonville and Caius College and became its master. In the first part of his book Caius describes the disease as “not a sweat onely (as it is thought or called) but a fever.” It lasted 24 hours, with pain in the arms, legs, back, and shoulders, followed by a “marvellous heavinesse, and …

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