Manardo, Giovanni

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(b. Ferrara, Italy, 24 July 1462; d. Ferrara, 7 March 1536)

medicine, botany.

Manardo belonged to a distinguished Ferrarese family; his father, Francesco Manardo, was a notary—as were many of his other relatives—while his great-uncle, Antonio Manardo, was an apothecary. Manardo studied at the University of Ferrara, where his teachers included Battista Guarini, Niccolò Leoniceno, and Francesco Benzi, son of the physician Ugo Benzi. He received his doctorate in arts and medicine on 17 October 1482; that same year he was appointed lecturer at the university. Although Manardo remained at Ferrara for the next ten years, his academic promotion, or a career at court, may have been obviated by his unwillingness to accept the prevalent theoretical and astrological basis assigned to medicine.

From 1493 to 1502 Manardo and his wife, Samaritana da Monte, lived in Mirandola, where he served as tutor and physician to Giovanni Francesco Pico and also assisted him in editing the works of his famous uncle, Pico della Mirandola. In spite of the French invasion of Italy, and under the influence of Pico della Mirandola’s theories, Manardo began to concentrate more heavily on separating medicine from astrology, while recognizing astronomy as a discrete science.

It was probably during these years also that Manardo’s studies led to his scientific travels in Italy and the brief lectureships attributed to him at Perugia, Padua, and Pavia. In 1507 and 1509 he returned to Ferrara, and again in 1512 when his son Timoteo was included among his pupils. In 1513 Manardo went to Hungary, where, through the influence of Celio Calcagnini and on the recommendation of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, he was appointed royal physician to Ladislaus Jagellon and to his successor, Louis II. From Hungary Manardo was able to journey to Croatia, Austria, and Poland. Subsequently his son (who had on 31 January 1514 qualified in medicine at Ferrara, under Leoniceno’s sponsorship) joined Manardo. The younger man wrote an account of his travels, Odoiporicon Germanicum et Pannonicum, which was praised by Calcagnini but is now lost.

In 1518 both Manardo and his son returned to Ferrara; there is no further record of Timoteo Manardo’s career, although he may have become a monk. Manardo himself succeeded Leoniceno as professor of medicine at the university in 1524 and also became personal physician to Alfonso I d’Este, duke of Ferrara. He remained in Ferrara for the rest of his life; when he was seventy-three, he married Giulia dei Sassoli da Bergamo, a widow with two children, who survived him, with their daughter, Marietta.

Manardo brought to his science new methods of interpretation, analysis, and classification. He had learned a Galenic, anti-Arabic medicine from Leoniceno; to this he added an empirical, intuitive methodology, firmly based on clinical observation, and a broad knowledge of Greek, Latin, Arabic, and biblical sources. He was thus able to resolve some of the lingustic confusion that surrounded his disciplines, and to devise a consistent nomenclature for his work in both pathology and botany.

In medicine, Manardo divided diseases into groups, according to their natures and cures. In dermatology he distinguished among psoriasis, filariasis, scabies, and syphilis, which he established as a specifically venereal entity. (Leoniceno and others had attributed the spread of syphilis to climatic conditions—humidity, rain, and flood—operating under the influence of the planets.) As an alternative to the widely used and dangerous mercuric treatment of the disease, Manardo proposed the West Indian remedy, Guaiacum sanctum, dissolved in wine. In ophthalmology he made a distinction between cataract and glaucoma; he further recognized the relationship between systemic—or internal—health and vision.

Manardo’s major medical work, Epistolae medicinales, is divided into twenty books which consist of 103 letters based on case histories, professional discussions, and personal observations. among the epistles is one on external diseases, addressed to the Ferrarese surgeon Santanna, which was followed by a long letter on internal diseases, written in the last years of Manardo’s life at the request of A. M. Canano (Manardo lived to complete the discussion of phthisis). In sum, the letters represent a development of Ugo Benzi’s Consilia; in substance they anticipate the scientific dissertations of the seventeenth century.

As a botanist, Manardo drew upon observations made in the course of his travels to distinguish among the properties of the variants that occur within a single species growing in differing locations. These variations are of practical importance in both pharmacy and dietetics; Manardo made further mention of them in his commentary on the Simplicia et composita (sometimes called the Grabadin) attributed to Johannes Mesue the Younger and in his criticism of V. M. Adriani’s translation of Dioscorides.

Manardo enjoyed considerable contemporary fame. He attended the last illnesses of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, his early patron, and of Ariosto, who had praised him by name in Orlando Furioso (canto XLVI, stanza 14). His pupil L. G. Giraldi wrote a moving poem on the occasion of his departure for Hungary, and G. P. Valeriano dedicated to him book twenty-four of his fifty–eight–book Geroglifici. Erasmus owned Manardo’s works, S. Champier corresponded with him, and Rabelais (himself a physician) wrote a preface to the 1532 edition of the Epistolae. Manardo’s writings were plagiarized by Leonhard Fuchs and cited by Vesalius.


I. Original Works. Manardo’s Epistolae medicinales were published in a number of editions: books I-VI (Ferrara, 1521; Paris, 1528; Strasbourg, 1529); books VII-XII, with a preface by Rabelais (Lyons, 1532); books I-XVIII (Basel, 1535); and the complete 20-book work (eight eds., Basel, 1540–Hannover, 1611). Manardo also published a partial translation and commentary on Galen’s Ars medicinalis (Rome, 1525; Basel, 1529, 1536, 1540, 1541; Padua, 1553, 1564), and a commentary on the Simplicia et composita, attributed to Johannes Mesue the Younger (Venice, 1558, 1561, 1581, 1589, 1623).

II. Secondary Literature. There is no comprehensive biobibliographical work on Manardo, but three recent publications provide essential references to earlier works about him. See Árpád Herczeg, “Johannes Manardus Hofarzt in Ungarn und Ferrara im Zeitalter der Renaissance,” Janus, 33 (1929), 52–78, 85–130, with portraits, separately published in Hungarian as Manardus János, 1462–1536, magyar udvari föorvos élete és müvei (Budapest, 1929); Atti del Convegno internazionale per le celebrazione della nascità di Giovanni Manardo, 1462–1536 (Ferrara, 1963); and L. Münster, “Ferrara e Bologna sotto i rapporti delle loro scuole medico—naturalistiche nell’ epoca umanistica—rinascimentale,” in Rivista di storia della medicina (1966), 11–12, 17–18, assesses the value of Manardo’s contribution.

Juliana Hill Cotton