Listen to my interview with Boyd Matson, host of National Geographic Weekend radio show: NGweekend radio interview.
William Eamon also brings a distant world up close in “The Professor of Secrets: Mystery, Medicine, and Alchemy in Renaissance Italy” (National Geographic: 320 pp., $26). Eamon traces the life of Leonardo Fioravanti, a 16th century doctor in Bologna, who challenged established medical methods with a bold new way to handle illness. There were many “professors of secrets” like Fioravanti, Eamon explains, and they were called by this title because of their practice of using syrups, oils and distilled drugs “made of herbal concoctions or mineral substances” to unlock nature’s secrets and battle plague, bladder stones and other ailments great and small. Fioravanti, however, is the focus of Eamon’s fine study, a cocky figure who once challenged the physicians of Milan to use their treatments on 25 patients while he would treat another group of 25: “If I don’t cure my patients quicker and better than they do theirs,” he declared, “I’m willing to be banished forever from this city.” (Eamon says it’s unlikely that the contest happened but that “the historical record is mute.”)
Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times (see article)
“In this entertaining biography of Italian physician and self-promoter Leonardo Fioravanti, Eamon gives a portrait of sixteenth century Italy that is far more realistic than that of those who follow the myth of the Renaissance.” –Book News
“…a highly entertaining work of medical history that reads like a novel, and the book is the rare text that can be appreciated by scholars as much as general readers.” historymike blogspot
Review (in German) by Daniel Jütte in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung 16 October 2010
Review by Elizabeth Hanink in Working Nurse.