Zacutus Lusitanus

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ZACUTUS LUSITANUS (Abraham Zacuth ; 1575–1642), physician. Born in Lisbon into an illustrious Marrano family and a descendant of Abraham ben Samuel *Zacuto, Zacutus became an important figure among Jewish physicians and had a large practice. His non-Jewish name was Manuel Alvares de Tavara. In 1625 he moved to Amsterdam, where he openly returned to Judaism, was circumcised, adopted the name Abraham, and began to use the name Zacuth in his writings. He engaged in fruitful scientific activity, and published many medical books. His main strength is revealed in his accurate clinical descriptions of plague, diphtheria, exanthematous diseases, and malignant tumors; he was one of the first to describe blackwater fever.

His works were collected in two folio volumes, published posthumously in Lyons (1642). They include De Medicorum Principum Historia – a systematic description of all diseases, as investigated by physicians of preceding generations; Introitus Medici ad Praxin – 80 principles for the physician in his behavior at work; Zacuti Pharmacopéa – a compendium of pharmacy, listing also the new drugs imported from Latin America; Praxis Historarium – a survey of diseases in internal medicine; Praxis Medica Admiranda – a collection of selected rare cases. He anticipated discoveries that appeared in later medical literature, such as Jacksonian epilepsy as well as stomach disease accompanied by dark vomits (apparently peptic ulcer), which he treated with aluminum silicate. Although his writings were intended for a general readership, they included some autobiographical details which emphasized his Jewish origin.


E. Carmoly, Histoire des médecins juifs (1844), 178–80; H. Friedenwald, Jews and Medicine, 2 (1944), 770; S.R. Kagan, Jewish Medicine (1952), 126–7; N. Koren, Jewish Physicians in Eighteen Centuries (1961); C.G. Joecher, Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, 4 (1751) 2136; J.O. Leibowitz, in: Harofé Haivri, 24 (1951), 113–22 (Heb.), 170ff.; S. Kottek, in: 22nd Congress for the History of Medicine (1970), 61. [Joshua O. Leibowitz]