- 1. Dates
- Born: Cape Verde Islands, or possibly a Portuguese possession in Africa,1515
- Died: Huelva, Spain, c.1594
- Dateinfo: Death Uncertain
- Lifespan: 79
- 2. Father
- Occupation: No Information
- No information on financial status.
- 3. Nationality
- Birth: Portuguese
- Career: Portuguese and Spanish
- Death: Spanish
- 4. Education
- Schooling: Unknown, M.D.
- There is no apparent record, but no one doubts that Acosta had a
university career, and most agree that he proceeded to the license in medicine.
- 5. Religion
- Affiliation: Catholic, Jew
- From a converted Jewish family. He lived as a Catholic.
- 6. Scientific Disciplines
- Primary: Natural History, Pharmacy, Botany
- Acosta was one of the pioneers in studying the plants, especially in
their pharmaceutical uses, of the orient. His Tractado de las drogas y
medicinas de las Indias orientales (dedicated to Burgos) contains systematic,
first hand observations on oriental drugs. It acknowledges d'Orta's work but
includes plants he did not mention and is illustrated by drawings. He also wrote a
Tractado de la yerbas, plantas, frutas y animales (of the East) that is lost.
He included (I think in the published work) a description of the oriental elephant.
His work on drugs widely translated.
- 7. Means of Support
- Primary: Governmental Office, Medical Practice
- He went to the East Indies before 1550 as a soldier, and visited Persia, India, Malaya, and perhaps China. On this trip, or perhaps on his later one, he met Garcia d'Orta in Goa.
- After returning to Portugal, he rejoined his former captain, Luiz de Ataide, newly appointed viceroy of India. Arrived in Goa in 1568.
- Appointed physician to the royal hospital in Cochin, 1569.
- By 1571, he was collecting botanical specimens in various parts of India.
- When Ataide ended his term in 1572, Acosta returned to Lisbon with him.
- Practiced medicine in Burgos, 1576-87. He was the contracted surgeon and then the contracted physician to the city, both positions being well salaried. After the death of his wife (1587?) he retired to a hermitage.
- 8. Patronage
- Types: Aristocracy And City Magistrates
- See his relationship with Ataide and the dedication of his book to Burgos (as well as his positions there).
- 9. Technological Involvement
- Types: Pharmacy, Medicine
- 10. Scientific Societies
- Memberships: None
- José Maria Lopez Piñero, et al., Diccionaria historico de la ciencia moderna en España, 2 vols. (Barcelona: Ediciones Peninsula, 1983). Umberto Giulio Paoli, "Cristobal Acosta e le sue opere," Archeion, 19 (1937), 317-47.
- Jacob Seidi, "The Relationship of Garcia de Orta's and Cristobal Acosta's Botanical Works," Actes du VIIe Congress International d'Histoire des Sciences, (Paris, 1955), 56407.
- Harry Friedenwald, The Jews and Medicine, 2 vols. (Baltimore, 1944), Essay XXXI. M. Ferreira de Mira, Historia da medicina portuguesa.
- Chincilla, Historia de la medicina española, 2, 51-9.
Not Available and Not Consulted
- Joachim Olmedilla y Puig, Estudio historico de . . . Cristobal de Acosta, (Madrid, 1899). I gather that this is primarily a panegyric.
- Compiled by:
- Richard S. Westfall
- Department of History and Philosophy of Science
- Indiana University