Biography of Diego Álvarez Chanca (ca. 1450-1515)

Physician and scientist Spanish in Seville-born about 1450 and died in the same city in 1515. Having participated in the second Columbian journey departed from Cádiz in September of 1493 because its historical celebrity. Doctorate at a University that we don't know, it was already at that time a character of relief, which held the position of doctor of the Royal House since at least three years before. During his stay in America, it was devoted to clinical practice, and won praise from Christopher Columbushimself as a physician. On the other hand, he/she demonstrated his talent for scientific observation in a letter addressed to the Seville Town Hall, which was one of the first reports about the nature of the new world and the customs of its inhabitants. It includes an excellent overview of the Antillean rodent called "Guinea pig" and other animal species, but especially noted for its botanical contents. Deals with numerous West Indian plants with utility as drugs, food or for other practical purposes, and compares them with the Spanish. At the end of the text, it offers a more detailed botanical catalogue, which was incomplete. The letter was not printed in its time, but reached a remarkable diffusion through handwritten copies.

On his return to the peninsula in 1495 or 1496, Álvarez Chanca settled in Seville, where he/she arrived to enjoy a good economic position thanks to the practice and some commercial activities related to America. During the two decades of life he/she had published three works: a study of fascination or an "evil eye" (1499), a treatise on "evil side" (1506), on the occasion of a pestilenciales fever suffered in the region of Seville, and a comment to the Parabolae medicationis of Arnaldo de Vilanova (1514). In all of them, it appears as a faithful follower of the arabizado galenism late medieval, which relies mainly on the systematization of Avicenna with a strictly scholastic focus.



Tractatus de fascinatione, Seville: P. Brun, 1499. New, no less useful than necessary, Treaty that declares how to cure the evil side, Sevilla: Jacobo Cromberger, 1506 (the only known copy of this booklet has been recently located in Toledo by Rafael Sancho de San Román, prepared an edition of the same). Commentum novum in parabolis divi Armaldi di villa nova, Sevilla: Jacobo Cromberger, 1514.


PANIAGUA, J. A.: El doctor Chanca and his medical work, Madrid: Ed. Hispanic culture, 1977.tio, a.: Dr. Diego Álvarez Chanca (biographical study), Barcelona: M. couple, BONATI, M., PARDO TOMÁS, j. 1966.RIPPA: "Introduzione". In: D. Álvarez Chanca, Lettera, (Firenze, Edizioni Riviste Scientifiche, 1989).PANIAGUA, j.: A European doctor in discovery: Diego Álvarez Chanca. In: J. M. LÓPEZ PIÑERO, dir., old and new continent. Medicine in the encounter of two worlds, Saned, Madrid, pp. (91-102).BROWN THOMAS, J.; Lopez TERRADA, M. L.: The letter to the cabildo de Sevilla, Diego Álvarez Chanca (1493-1494). In: The first news about the American plants in relations of travel and Chronicles of the Indies (1493-1553), (Valencia, Institute of documentary studies and historical science, 1993, pp. 29-31).

José María López Piñero