2 Fracastoro

2 Fracastoro - Girolamo Fracastoro, Syphilis, or the French...

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Girolamo Fracastoro, Syphilis, or the French Disease (1530) Girolamo Fracastoro was born in northern Italy in 1478 and was appointed Professor of Medicine at the University of Padua when he was just nineteen years old. In the 1490s west Europeans encountered syphilis for the first time, and Fracastoro was on of the first scholars to analyze this infection. The modern name syphilis comes from Fracastoro’s Syphilis, or the French Disease, an epic poem in three books, proposing that the sun god of Haiti had inflicted this new disease on a shepherd boy named Syphilus who had insulted him . BOOK I, The Causes What were the varied accidents of matter, what the seeds which brought on an unaccustomed disease through long centuries seen by no one, which in our time raged through all Europe, parts of Asia and through the cities of Africa? It burst into Italy with the unhappy French wars and took its name from that people. Further what was the cure and what the resource experience and man's great skill in straitened circumstances discovered, and the help shown by the gods, and the gifts bestowed by heaven? These I shall now begin to sing and through the liquid air and through the stars in vast Olympus I shall search for causes far hidden: since Nature's quiet gardens with their fragrant flowers and the Muses who love wonders invite me, gripped by a sweet love of this strange event . .. With diseases . .. there is not one process of gestation for them all, the greatest number are easy to observe, they have an easy birth, and their basic structure is obvious. Others emerge more rarely and only after a long period of time are they finally able to overcome the difficulties of their origins and a fate hard to unravel and deep darkness . .. Of this kind is the dreadful plague that has lately come forth into the air and has finally freed itself from black mists and in a difficult birth burst its bonds. ... [W]e must conclude that this plague has been seen on earth not once but often, although up to now it has not been known to us even by name . .. Yet in the great ocean beneath the setting sun, where an unhappy race inhabits a world lately discovered [the New World], it arises everywhere and there is not a place where it is not commonly known. To such an extent can the causes of things and their initial development vary according to the sky and length of time. And that which over there the air and a suitable earth bear freely, here a long period of years has only just brought upon us. ... [Y]ou must . .. reckon that the seat and origin of the evil are firmly fixed in the very air, which pours in all directions round the whole earth, which infiltrates everywhere through our bodies, and is accustomed to send these diseases among the race of living creatures. For air is the father of all things and the author of their origin. This same element often brings serious illnesses to mortals, since its soft material has in many ways a natural tendency to putrefy, to be easily affected and to pass on the effects that it has
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2010 for the course IHUM 69 taught by Professor Morris during the Spring '10 term at Stanford.

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2 Fracastoro - Girolamo Fracastoro, Syphilis, or the French...

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