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Monardes, Nicolas Bautista

1. Dates
Born: Seville, probably 1508
Died: Seville, 10 October 1588
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 80 There is debate about the year of Monardes' birth, of which there is no definitive evidence. Many and perhaps most put it about 1493, on the basis of a statement by him near the end of his life. Nothing in his life makes sense with this date, however. It leaves the whole of his young manhood unrecorded. It has him attending university in his late 30's and marrying about the age of 40. It has him undertaking the work on the materia medica of the new world, the work for which he is known to history, when he was over 70. This is all most improbable, so that the evidence, in itself not more definitive than that for 1493, that he was born about 1508, fits the rest of his life much better.
2. Father
Occupation: Pub
His father was Niculoso de Monardis, an Italian bookseller who had established himself in Seville.
No evidence about the family's financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Spanish
Career: Spanish
Death: Spanish
4. Education
Schooling: Alcala; Seville, M.D.
B.A., Alcal, 1530. B.Med, Alcal, 1530.
M.D., Seville, 1547.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Pharmacology, Botany
Subordinate: Natural History, Mineralogy
Monardes is the best known Spanish physician from the 16th century. He was translated into Latin, English, Italian, French, German, and Dutch. Through him the materia medica from the new world first began to be known in Europe. Because of his tests on animals, he is considered as one of the founders of experimental pharmacology.
He gave the first scientific description of several species of plants.
He also described some animals, such as the armadillo, living specimens of which he did see. So also some of the minerals of America.
He wrote a book on iron that was famous; it included information of the working of iron and was not confined solely to its pharmacological uses.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Merchant, Personal Means
Monardes father-in-law was the physician to the upper class of Seville. Monardes apparently took over the practice and maintained it throughout his life.
Various surviving documents establish his extensive mercantile enterprises, which included the importation of drugs and involvement in the slave trade.
It is clear that Monardes was quite wealthy by his middle years, but there is no suggestion that he inherited the wealth. However, he received a large dowry, and eventually his wife inherited a great deal. Monardes clearly managed the estate well and multiplied its value.
He took holy orders in 1577 after the death of his wife; this had nothing to do with his means of support.
8. Patronage
Types: City Magistrate, Aristrocrat, Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
Three early books were dedicated to physicians, whom I have interpreted (in the light of Monardes whole career) as friends rather than patrons.
He dedicated a book of 1545 to the government of the city of Seville.
He dedicated his first book (1565) on the materia medica of the new world to the Archbishop of Seville, as well as a new edition of it in 1569.
He dedicated an addition (on the Bezoar stone) to the 1569 edition to the Duchess of Bejar. There were also books dedicated to the Duke of Arian and the Duke of Alcal. I gather that all of these aristocrats were also his patients.
He dedicated a new edition of the 1565 book, which had new additions, to the King.
He dedicated a book of 1574 to the Pope.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
It seems clear that l'Écluse became acquainted with Monardes in Seville; later he translated Monardes' work on the materia medica of the new world into Latin, and later still l'Écluse translated more of his work.
  1. José M. Lopez Piñero, et al., Diccionario historico de la ciencia moderna en España, 2, 69-72.
  2. Francisco Guerra, Nicols Bautista Monardes. Su vida y su obra, (Mexico City, 1961).
  3. Francisco Rodriguez Marin, La verdadera biografia del doctor Nicolas Monardes, (Madrid, 1925).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Joaquin Olmedilla y Puig, Estudio historico de . . . Monardes, (Madrid, 1890).
  2. Carlos Pereyra, Monardes y el exotismo médico en el siglo XVI, (Madrid, 1936).
  3. U.G. Paoli, "Nuove notizie su Monardes," Archieon, 19 (1937), 44- 50.
  4. F.J. Perez Fuenzalida, "Un escrito clave de Nicolas Monardes: 'Dialogo llamado Pharmacodilosis o Declarcion medicinal'," Actas IV Congreso Español de Historia de la Medicina, (Granada, 1975), 1, 81-8.
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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