Biography of Nicolás Bautista Monardes y Alfaro (ca.1493-1588)

Writer and Spanish physician born in Seville to 1493 and died in the same city in 1588. He/She studied at the University of Alcalá, where he/she earned the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and philosophy (1530) and Bachelor of Medicine (1533). There he/she was influenced by the current led by Elio Antonio de Nebrija, although the great humanist was not his teacher. In 1547 he/she obtained his doctorate at the University of Seville, city in which he/she remained until his death, at a very advanced age. In addition to practicing medicine with great prestige and considerable income, he/she participated in commercial companies, including medicinal materials trade and the slave trade. Monardes published numerous works. The first of them, called pharmacodilosis (1536), dialogue reflects, as it has clarified Pérez Fuenzalida, their allegiance to the humanist current. Arabs attributed the decline of Botany and materia medica and recommends the direct study of the classics, especially of Dioscorides, in the same line of Nebrija. Similar orientation has her second book (1539), dealing with the bleeding on the side "evil", then subject of a bitter controversy between fans of the humanistic tendency and the arabizante.

At a later date published an edition of the Jew Sevillana medicine (1545) late medieval Avignon Juan, the snow and the cold (1571) bever book and four treaties: De rosa et eius Guggenheim. Succi rosarum temperature, nec non de rosis Persicis (ca. 1540), malis citriis, aurantis ac limonis (1564), the book [of] the bezaar stone, and the grass escuerconera (1565), and the dialogue of the greatnesses of the iron, and its medicinal virtues (1574). The first three, which were republished in Spanish and published several times in different languages out of Spain, were the first monographs on roses and citrus and the book that spread in European medical terms the use of the Scorzonera hispanica l., introduced by the catalan doctor Pedro Carnicer, and which incorporated the bezoars American, following the broadcast of the Asianmainly due to the Portuguese García da Horta. The dialogue of the iron, also reprinted and translated, was the first book devoted to a subject that would not be solely treated until the beginning of the 18th century; It defends the importance of iron for human life, contrasting it to the immoderate ambition that aroused the precious metals. The exhibition is made in the form of a dialogue between the author, Bernardino de Burgos (real character according to Francisco Guerra) apothecary and a biscayan metalurgista called Ortuño. In the mouth of this last gets the description of the main European and Spanish sites, as well as the techniques of wrought iron and the manufacture of steel, including the usual in the famous "foundries" in the Basque country. The book also deals with the genesis of iron, its qualities and its therapeutic applications, with the approach of the academic culture of the time.

His most important book was, however, that in its first full edition was titled Medicinal history of things which are brought from our West Indies (1574). Consists of three parts, the first of which had appeared in 1565 and the second in 1571. Monardes was acutely aware of the service provided to spend long years in the preparation of this work. In the preface to his first part, after listing the "incredible wealth coming from the new world in gold and silver, precious stones, pearls, animal, wool, cotton, grana to dye, copper, Brazil and ebony", says that "things that bring our West Indies serving in medicine" are still more valuable. For this reason, it was proposed to study them, "which will be the first, so that others added to this principle that most supieren and by more experience may be". As Seville, he/she continues, "it is port and scale of all West Indies [...] "pudelo do, together with the experience and use them for forty years that has that I am cured in this city, where I have informed who of those parts have brought them very carefully and I have them experienced". The Seville doctor was not a casual observer or a self-taught, but a solidly formed and scientist with extensive experience in the study of nature. American plants cultivated in the garden of his house and took the collections and gardens existing Gonzalo Argote de Molina Museum in Seville, among them and perhaps also the Botanical Garden of Simón de Tovar. He/She described for the first time, according to Francisco Guerra, several plant species, such as holy thistle (Argemone mexicana), the wild barley (Sabadilla officinarum), the jalapa (Exogonium purge) or Sassafras (Sassafras officinale), but, above all, many offered the first detailed and accurate descriptions of others.

It is a topic to consider a "classic" of the Pharmacognosy, Monardes since W. Tschirch in his great treated of this discipline (1909-1927) stated that it was one of the "fathers" of the discipline, along with de l ' Écluse and Valerius Cordus. This title is justified mainly by the study of the "new medicines" which included in the three parts of your medical history. It began with resins from species of the genus Hymenaea, Rhus, Elaphrium e Icica, specified information relating to the "oil" of Liquidambar styraciflua l. and added to old world "bloods of drago" again extracted from American species of Croton. Under the heading of the purgatives, of great relief in the treatment of the time, dealt with the "oil of the fig tree from hell" (Jatropha curcas l.), from the American "drumstick" (Cassia grandis l.), which considered quality superior to the Asian (C. fistula l.), and others of secondary importance; front of them pointed out the root of the "mechocan" (Convolvulus mechoacán Vandelli) as purgative ideal, among other reasons because of its mild effects that contrasted with the of other "mechoacán" which he/she called "furious" (the jalapa or Exogonium purge [Wender] Benth.). Also highlighted, such as "things in the world", "guayacán" and "palo santo" (Guaiacum officinale l. and g. sanctum l.), ersatz American (pseudo-china Smilax l.) root of Asian china (S. china l.) and the American sarsaparrilla. These latest offered a full exposure, especially as regards their preparation and administration in the form of syrup, powder, and "water", as well as a division that remained almost at the foot of the letter writers of medical material to very advanced 19th century: Mexico or Veracruz sarsaparilla (Smilax medica Schlecht. et Cham.), the Quito or Guayaquil (S. officinalis Humb. and spp.) and Honduras (mainly S. utilis Hemsley)that it considered the preferable. "Monardes - says war - beyond the old concept of the traditional herbal to delve into the origin and characters of identification in addition to the uses of American materials, pointing to similarities and differences with the classical pharmacy products." This is because, from the classic Handbuch der Pharmakognosie (1933) of Alexander Tschirch, is considered, along with Valerius Cordus and Charles de l'Escluse (Clusius), as one of the "fathers" of this science.

However, scientific Monardes height manifested itself with special clarity in the chapters on the Balsam of Tolu and Peru (Myroxylon balsamum [L.]) Harms. var. pereirae and var. balsamum), tobacco, and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum [Nutt.]) Nees), which include contributions that have remained closely associated with his name until the present century. Balms and tobacco were already known, but Monardes dedicated farmacognosticos detailed and systematic studies, emphasizing the indications of how balsamic first, healing and urinary antiseptics, and analyzing the effects of tobacco as narcotic jointly with the opium and Cannabis indica. Such is the chapter about Sassafras "stick", described for the first time and introduced in European therapy. It was also the first who studied the wild barley (Schoenocaulon officinale [Schlecht] Gray), the American cinnamon Dicypelium caryophilatum Nees. and Canella alba Murr., as well as "long pepper" (Piper angustifolium Ruiz et Pavón). More than pass dealt with food plants such as peppers, tropical pineapple, sunflower, corn, sweet potato, etc., stopping only to cassava or manioc, the passion fruit and peanut, which he/she called "fruit that grows under the Earth", an expression that Linnaeus literally joined the species name (Arachis hypogaea L.).

The medical history of Monardes was one of most reedited scientific works in Renaissance Europe. Without the printed in Spain, nineteen editions, in latin, Italian, French, English and German, and after his death other fourteen, as well as be summarized or plagiarized partially on numerous occasions he/she had in life of the author. The most important translator was flamenco Escluse Charles (Carolus Clusius), whose Latin version of the first two parts and, later, of the whole work was instrumental to its spread in the European academic world. It did not just a literal translation, it reordered the text, summarized some of the chapters and others complemented by news, mostly from books of Oviedo, López de Gómara and Cieza or his friends and correspondents, among them, the Spaniards Benito Arias Montano, the quoted Simon de Tovar y Castañeda Juan.

In another order of things, his references to animal species, one of which is dedicated to the armadillo, on the basis of an exemplary alive possessed Argote de Molina were much more scarce. Among which is devoted to minerals include the corresponding amber, the sulphur from Quito and Nicaragua, and the origin of the bitumen and oil.



Dialog called pharmacodilosis or medical Declaration [...]. (Seville; Juan Cromberger, 1536). Secanda vena in pleuriti Inter Grecos et Arab Concordia. (Seville; D. de Robertis, 1539). Rose Guggenheim et eius [...]. (Seville; D. de Robertis, ca. 1540).[Avignon Juan] Sevillana medicine [...]. (Seville; A. Burgos, 1545). Two books. One is all the things that bring our West Indies, serving the use of medicine...The other book is two wonderful medicines which are against all poison, Bezaar stone, and the yerva Escuerconera [...]. (Seville; S. Trujillo, 1565).Second part of the book, things that will bring our West Indies, serving the use of Medicine [...]. You will added a book of snow [...]. (Seville; A. clerk, 1571). First and second and third parts of the medical story of stuff which are brought from our West Indies serving in medicine. Treaty of the Bezaar stone, and the yerva Escuerconera. Dialogue of the greatness of the iron, and its medicinal virtues. Snow and the bever cold [...]. (Seville; A. clerk, 1574).


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