Monardes, Nicolás Bautista

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(b. Seville, Spain, ca. 1493; d. Seville, 10 October 1588)

medicine, natural history.

Monardes was the son of Nicoloso dc Monardis, an Italian bookseller, and Ana de Alfaro, daughter of a physician. He received a bachelor’s degree in arts in 1530 and in medicine in 1533, both from the University of Alcalá de Henares, and the doctorate in medicine at Seville in 1547. In 1537 he married Catalina Morales, daughter of García Perez Morales, professor of medicine at Seville. They had seven children, some of whom went to America; their father, however, had to learn about American drugs at Seville’s docks. Monardes had a good medical practice as well as considerable investments and businesses, which included the importation of drugs and the slave trade, the latter involving him in bankruptcy. After the death of his wife in 1577 Monardes took holy orders; he died eleven years later of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Monardes was the best-known and most widely read Spanish physician in Europe in the sixteenth century: his books were translated into Latin, English, Italian, French, German, and Dutch; and through his writings the American materia medica began to be known. He also published works on pharmacology, toxicology, medicine, therapeutics, phlebotomy, iron, and snow. He was an expert botanist; and because of his careful descriptions of drugs and the tests he carried out in animals to ascertain their medicinal properties, He is considered one of the founders of pharmacognosy and experimental pharmacology.


I. Originai Works. The earliest book by Monardes, a survey of materia medica prior to the introduction of American drugs, was Pharmacodilosis (Seville, 1536). The study on venesection, De secanda vena in pleuritii (Seville, 1539), was reprinted at Antwerp in 1551, 1564, and 1943. The booklet on the medicinal properties of the rose, De rosa et partibus eís (Seville, ca. 1540), was also reprinted in Archaeion (Santa Fé, Argentina, 1941–1942). Monardes’ fame grew after the publication of his first book on American drugs, Dos libros. El uno que trata de todas las cosas que traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales … (Seville, 1565; repr. 1569). The Segunda parte del libro de todas las cosas …(Seville, 1571) contains the description of tobacco, among other drugs. He also published a book on snow, Libro que trata de la nieve (Seville, 1571). Some of these works were translated and published abroad. A book containing all of Monardes’ printed works on the American drugs plus those on the bezoar, viper’s-grass, iron, and snow, Primera, y segunda y tercera partes de la historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales que se sirven en medicina … (Seville, 1574), was soon translated into Italian, English, Latin, and French, and reprinted in Spanish (1580); up to 50 eds. of his works have been recorded. Monardes also edited Jean d’Avignon’s Sevillana medicina (Seville, 1545; repr. 1885).

II. Secondary Literature. There are several biographies on Monardes. Joaquin Olmedilla y Puig, Estudio histörico de … Monardes (Madrid, 1897); and Carlos Pereyra, Monardes y el exotismo médico en el siglo XVI (Madrid, 1936), were superseded by the data found in Seville’s archives by Francisco Rodriguez Marin and presented in La verdadera biografia del doctor Nicolás Monardes (Madrid, 1925). Corrected biographical information, a study of Monardes’ pharmacological work, and a bibliographical survey are in Francisco Guerra, Nicolás Bautista Monardes, su vida y su obra (Mexico City, 1961).

Francisco Guerra

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Monardes, Nicolás Bautista

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