Advance Notices of “The Professor of Secrets”

It’s fun to read reviews of your books–provided they are favorable. Here’s the first advance review of The Professor of Secrets that I have seen. It’s by Nick Owchar of the Los Angeles Times:

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.”)

As Eamon shows, Fioravanti and other doctors like him — in combating superstition and ignorance — were seeking real medical breakthroughs that would reveal the “Magna Medicina” (“Great Medicine”). The author presents what medicine was like during the Renaissance with a wealth of unexpected details (one found, in a Renaissance pharmacy, “an alligator hanging from the ceiling” and “stuffed armadillos and miraculous healing stones”) and a light, accessible touch (a discussion of blood, yellow and black bile and phlegm is found in the section “Humor me”) that makes this book welcome reading not only for the summer but for any time of year.

(Read the complete review here.)

2 Comments to Advance Notices of “The Professor of Secrets”

  1. williameamon's Gravatar williameamon
    July 20, 2010 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you found the post interesting. I’ll be posting other comments about early medicine and science, so stay tuned!

  2. August 6, 2010 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    There’s a lot of interesting info here, thanks to the poster.

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