The Chamberlen family made up a dynasty of obstetricians founded by a French protestant emigré William Chamberlen who settled in Southampton, England, in 1569. His son Peter Chamberlen the Elder (d. 1631) trained in Paris and was probably the first to use the short obstetrical forceps zealously guarded as a family secret for over a hundred years. He moved to London in 1596, and became a barber-surgeon and accoucheur to the queens of James I and Charles I. He was prosecuted by the Royal College of Physicians of London for prescribing, escaping imprisonment only through the intercession of the Archbishop of Canterbury with the president.
Peter the Elder's brother, Peter Chamberlen the Younger (1572–1626), was a barber-surgeon and licensed by the Bishop of London to practice midwifery.
Peter the Younger's son, also Peter Chamberlen (1601–83), trained at Cambridge and Padua. He lectured on anatomy to the barber-surgeons and became physician to the King. Arguments with the Royal College of Physicians over the incorporation of midwives under his presidency led to his being deprived of his fellowship in 1649.
Peter's eldest son, Hugh Chamberlen the Elder (?1632–?), trained under Mauriceau in Paris and translated his textbook. He was appointed physician to the King in 1673 and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1681. It is thought that he sold the family secret to the Dutch obstetrician, Hendrik van Roonhuysen, in 1692.
Hugh's brother, Paul Chamberlen (1635–1717), practiced as a midwife, but was better known for his anodyne necklace.
Hugh Chamberlen the Younger (1664–1728), son of Hugh Chamberlen the Elder, studied at Leiden, graduated from Cambridge in 1689, and practiced with success as an obstetrician in London