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Hernández, Francisco

1. Dates
Born: near Toledo, c. 1517
Died: Madrid, 1587
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 70
2. Father
Occupation: No Information
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Spanish
Career: Spanish
Death: Spanish
4. Education
Schooling: Alcala, M.D.
Studied medicine at Univ. of Alcalá. All things considered, I assume a B.A.
Although there is no explicit reference or evidence, I cannot see how the rest of the career could have followed without an M.D.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic by assumption; Jew
The family may have been Marranos.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural History, Botany, Pharmacology
Subordinate: Anatomy, Medicine, Geography
He was a friend of Vesalius and followed his lead in dissecting. One of the early defenders of the lesser circulation.
In Mexico City he experimented on the medicinal properties of the local drugs. He did his best to establish a Mexican pharmacology based on local plants.
His translation of Pliny contains extensive geographical commentaries.
During his final year in Mexico, he was in charge of the battle against the terrible epidemic, cocoliztle, that wiped out half of Mexico. He left an important clinical study of the disease.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medical Practice, Patronage
Secondary: Government
Apparently began his career as physican to the Duke of Maqueda (near Toledo) for a brief time, then practiced several years in Seville.
He occupied the most important medical position in Spain at that time, physician of the hospitals of the Monastery of Guadalupe. He was probably there in the late 60's. This position was virtually the antechamber to the royal chamber. He directed the botanical garden, and botanized in the area. Here also his anatomical studies.
When he returned to Toledo apparently about 1567, he was in contact with the court; by about 1568 he became physician to the Chamber of the King.
By order of Philip II, went to Mexico to study the flora and fauna, with particular attention to medicinal properties, 1570-77.
While in Mexico he was protomedico for the colony.
8. Patronage
Type: Court
The two pinnacles of Spanish medicine were the royal chamber and the office of protomedico, both of which he held (the latter for Mexico). Both positions salaried. The expedition to Mexico carried a salary of 2,000 ducats.
He dedicated the translation (with commentary) of Pliny to Philip II; this work was not published during his life.
When Hernández returned to Spain, his friends at court were no longer in such influence, and Hernández was rewarded for his herculean endeavors largely by indifference. His great natural history was not published as, of course, he had hoped. He left behind a revealing memorial to the court and a Latin poem to his friend Arias Montano.
During his final years he was appointed physician to the young prince who became Philip III.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice And Pharmacology
Hernández learned the indian language and translated some of his materials into it because he was convinced the pharmacological information would be useful to them.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. José Maria Lopez Piñero, et al., Diccionaria historico de la ciencia moderna en España, 2 vols. (Barcelona: Ediciones Peninsula, 1983). Jose Maria Lopez Pinero, Ciencia y tecnica en la sociedad espanola de los siglos XVI y XVII, (Barcelona: Labor, 1979).
  2. German Somolinos d'Ardois, "Vida y obra de Francisco Hernández," Obras completas, 1, (Mexico City, 1959-66). This is far and away the best source.
  3. José María López Piñero, El codice Pomar (ca. 1590), el interés de Felipe II por la historia natural y la expedición Hernández, (Valencia 1991).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. E. Alvarez Lopez, "El Dr. Francisco Hernández y sus comentarios a Plinio," Revista de Indias, 3 (1942), 251-90.
  2. A.J. Barreiro, "El testmento del doctor Hernández," Boletin de la Real Academia de la Historia, 94 (1929), 475-97.
  3. Commentarios a la obra de Francisco Hernández, (México, 1984).
  4. Vol. 7 of the Obras completas.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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