Arnald de Villanova
Arnald de Villanova
Circa 1240 – 1311
Health Regimens. Arnald de Villanova is best known for his practical health guides, or regimens, which exerted a strong influence on the Western medical tradition in the later Middle Ages.
Medical Education and Practice. A medical student from Valencia, Arnald was studying at the University of Montpelier p>in France by about 1260. In 1281 he became the personal physician to Peter III and Alfonso III of Aragon (in modern Spain) and remained there until 1291. He then became a master at Montpelier, where he was fundamental in establishing Scholastic medical studies. Despite his rather unorthodox theological views, Arnald’s considerable skills as a physician kept him in good graces with both university authorities and the Vatican. The health regimens he wrote for various royal patrons in the early fourteenth century cover a wide variety of subjects from diet and exercise to childbirth and gallstones, and his advice seems to have rested more on proven experience than on theories or authorities. Arnald also translated Arabic works on the heart, drugs, and health regimens, having easy access to these manuscripts while in residence in Spain. Some of these works were part of the core medical texts used at Montpelier after a papal decree of 1309 that established fifteen Greek and Arab texts as the basis for the curriculum at the school.
Medical Theory. Concerned with both the practical application of medicine and its theoretical underpinnings, Arnald investigated the Western and Eastern works on Galenic medicine and often fused his interpretations with his Christian theological views of humanity and the cosmos. Further, he borrowed mathematical ideas of intensity from the Arabic philosophers al-Kindi and Averroes and suggested that the intensity of a remedy was proportional to the ratio of the Aristotelian qualities of its ingredients (for example, hot/cold or wet/dry). Because he commingled practical operations and theoretical speculation, scholars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries associated Arnald with the alchemical tradition; yet, he never considered alchemy a legitimate art.
Michael McVaugh, “Arnald de Villanova, in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie (New York: Scribner, 1970), 1: 289-291.
McVaugh, “Arnald of Villanova and Bradwardine’s Law,” Isis, 58 (1967): 56-64.