Hernández, Francisco (c. 1517–1587)

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Hernández, Francisco (c. 1517–1587)

Francisco Hernández (b. ca. 1517; d. 1587), medical doctor and botanist from Puebla de Montalbán, Toledo, Spain. While studying at Alcalá de Henares, Hernández learned of Erasmus of Rotterdam's doctrines and those of the most outstanding humanists of his time. He practiced medicine in Toledo and Seville and was King Philip II's court physician. Upon his appointment as Protomédico de Indias in 1570, he went to New Spain, where he became deeply interested in Nahuatl medicine, the therapeutic uses of American flora and fauna, and the Nahuatl cultural approaches to diseases.

Antagonized by the Mexican viceroy, Hernández returned to Spain in 1577. He was then dismissed as court physician and replaced by Nardo Antonio Recco, who severely abbreviated Hernández's written works, many of which were destroyed by fire in 1671. Nevertheless, a large number of Hernández's botanical and medical writings are extant. They include Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae (Rome, 1628), Quatro libros de la naturaleza y virtudes medicinales de las plantas y animales de la Nueva España (Mexico, 1615), and De antiquitatibus Novae Hispaniae (Mexico, 1926).

See alsoMedicine: Colonial Spanish America.


Germán Somolinos D'ardois, Vida y obra de Francisco Hernández (1960).

Bernard Ortiz De Montellano, Aztec Medicine, Health, and Nutrition (1990).

Guenter B. Risse, "Medicine in New Spain," in Medicine in the New World: New Spain, New France, and New England, edited by Ronald L. Numbers (1987).

Additional Bibliography

López Piñero, José María, and José Pardo Tomás. La influencia de Francisco Hernández, 1515–1587, en la constitución de la botánica y la materia médica modernas. Valencia: Instituto de Estudios Documentales e Históricos sobre la Ciencia, Universitat de València, 1996.

Varey, Simon, Rafael Chabrán, and Dora B Weiner. Searching for the Secrets of Nature: The Life and Works of Dr. Francisco Hernández. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

                               Carmen Benito-Vessels

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Hernández, Francisco (c. 1517–1587)

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