The Surgeon's Apprentice

A tale of medicine, war, seafaring and stargazing from the very beginnings of the modern world.

Born on Christmas Day 1610 in a Flanders cowshed, Frans Michielszoon van Raveyck grows up to become one of the most singular minds of the 17th century: surgeon, inventor, engineer, explorer, astrologer and proto-scientist, employed at various times — and with somewhat mixed results — in the service of most of the kings of Christendom.


This first volume of his biography takes us from his humble nativity through his family’s flight to England, his apprenticeship as a surgeon there, and finally to his involvement aboard a Dutch warship in the disastrous naval expedition to Cadiz in the autumn of 1625; an enterprise regarded by connoisseurs of incompetence as the worst-conducted military operation in Britain’s entire history. Which young Frans, however, observing the chaos around him, attributes to the expedition having neglected to take a good astrologer along with it…

“John Biggins is the author of a wry and fascinating tetralogy of novels… The Surgeon’s Apprentice is another soundly researched tale… it makes for a good yarn.” — The Spectator, Books of the Year 2010

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