Authorised form of nameDigby; Sir; Kenelm (1603 - 1665); natural philosopher and courtier
Other forms of nameKenelme
Dates1603 - 1665
Place of birthGayhurst, Buckinghamshire, England, Europe
Date of birth11 July 1603
Place of deathCovent Garden, London, England, Europe
Date of death11 June 1665
Dates and placesBurial:
Christ Church, Newgate Street, London, England, Europe
OccupationAuthor; Diplomat; Sailor
Research fieldNatural philosophy
Gloucester Hall, Oxford (1618); Gray's Inn (1619); Peterhouse, Cambridge; MA (on the King's visit 1624)
Sailed to Spain with his relative, Sir John Digby (1617-1618); travelled in France, Italy and Spain (1620-1623); gave three addresses to the 'Accademia dei Filomati' in Siena; became gentleman of the privy chamber to Prince Charles (1623); commissioner of the 'Eage' and the 'George and Elizabeth'; appointed Junior Principal Officer of the Navy (1630); studied chemistry and became involved in alchemy (1633-1635); arrested by Parliament (7 August 1642; 12 November 1642-30 Julu 1643); wrote his treatises 'Two treatises, in the one of which the nature of bodies, in the other the nature of man's soul is looked into: in way of discovery of the immortality of reasonable souls' (1642-1643); banished to France (1643-1654); permitted to return to England (January 1654) and received a pension; published translation of 'Of Adhering to God' (1654); confidant and ambassador of Cromwell (1655-1658); Chancellor to Queen Henrietta
Kt 28 October 1623
Membership categoryOriginal Fellow
Date of election22/04/1663
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
Sworn in 3 June 1663.
Committee and panels:
Chemistry Committee
Other Royal Society activityPresented findings on plants and animals (1661). Brought in stones, called octulus mundi (1661)
RelationshipsParents: Sir Everard Digby (c.1578-1606) and Mary Mulsho of Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire
Siblings: Sir John Digby (1605-1645)
Married: Venetia Stanley of Tonge Castle, Shropshire
Children: Kenelm Digby (1625-1648), John Digby, George Digby (d.1648)
Published worksRCN: 36943
RCN: 36946
RCN: 22891
RCN: 52884
General contextDigby converted to and reconverted from Anglicanism during his life time and was unsuccessful in petitioning the goverment to rescind the penal laws against Roman Catholics and for toleration for Catholics. His father was executed for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot when Digby was three years old. His work and experimentation on animal embryos upheld Aristotelian ideas on epigenesis and there is an idea amongst medical historians that Digby can be called 'the father of modern embryology' and is 'ranked highly' amongst 17th century biologists. His work consolidated his reputation as a natural philosopher.
Related imagesDiscover a selection of related images in our picture library

Digby K, IM006015.jpg

Bulloch's Roll; DNB; DSB; Venn
Jacqueline A Stedall, 'Catching Proteus: the collaborations of Wallis and Brouncker. II. Number problems' in NR 2000 vol 54 pp 317-331
Peter Brimblecombe, 'Interest in Air Pollution Among Early Fellows of the Royal Society' in NR 1977-8 vol 32 pp 123-129
John F Fulton, 'Sir Kenelm Digby, FRS (1603-1665)' in NR 1960 vol 15 pp 199-210, plate
G H Turnbull, 'Samuel Hartlib's Influence on the Early History of the Royal Society' in NR 1953 vol 10 pp 101-130
H W Robinson, 'Gleanings from the Library - I. A Note on the Early Minutes' in NR 1938 vol 1 pp 92-95
J Gribbin, 'The Fellowship', 2005, pp174-180
The election date is Digby's re-election date into the Society after the grant of the second charter in April 1663. All Fellows admitted in a two-month window after this charter, until 22 June 1663, are considered Original Fellows. He was previously elected on 12 December 1660.
Aubrey (quoting Jonson) gives his date of birth as 11 June
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA8202
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
IM/001151Digby, Sir Kenelmnd
LBO/1/4Copy Letter from Frenicle, Paris, to Kenelme Digby 31 August 1661
MS/10Le grand oevre des philosophes: alchemical tracts by Phillipe Rouillach and others17th century
EL/B1/103Extract of a letter, from Olaus Borrichius to Kenelm Digby, dated at Paris19 January 1663
EL/F1/1Letter, from [Bernard] Frenicle to Kenelm DigbyAugust 1661
EL/T/8Letter, from Francisco Travagino to Kenelm Digby, dated at Venice1666
EL/F1/2Translation of a letter, from [Bernard] Frenicle to Kenelm Digby1661
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