Valverde, Juan De

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(b. Amusco, Palencia, Spain, ca. 1520; dRome [?], Italy, ca. 1588)

medicine, anatomy.

Few reliable biographical sources are extant although Valverde’s works contain some information. It is believed that he studied humanities and philosophy at Valladolid University but, like most Spanish scholars of his time, went to Italy after graduation. He received anatomical training at Padua for several years under Vesalius and Colombo until 1543 and became assistant to the latter when he went to Pisa in 1544. It may be assumed that Valverde also accompanied Colombo to Rome in 1548 and that he settled there, for he was one of the prosectors at the autopsy of Cardinal Cibó in 1550. By 1551 Valverde had finished De animi et corporis sanitate tuenda libellus, dedicated to Cardinal Verallo. Shortly afterward he became physician to Cardinal Álvarez de Toledo, general inquisitor of Rome and it was while holding this office that he wrote the anatomical treatise Historia de la composisición del cuerpo humano. While teaching medicine at the Santo Spirito Hospital in 1555. Valverde was among those considered for the post of papal physician, which was given to another Spaniard, Juan de Aguilera.

It has been stated that in 1558 Valverde visited Amusco, carrying special papal indulgences for the town’s church. The credit given by Valverde to Antonio Tabo de Albenga in the first Italian version of his Historia (1559) could be interpreted to mean that Valverde had married into the Tabo family. He was alive in 1586, when his engraved portrait first appeared in the edition of the Historic published in that year; but he probably was dead by 1589, when Michele Colombo, son of Realdo, published the Latin version of the work. The records for 1602 of the St. Sebastian Brotherhood who cared for the sick poor at Amusco contain a grateful mention of “the late” Doctor Juan de Valverde.

Valverde’s De . . . sanitate tuenda conatains soud doctrine on personal hygiene and shows good knowledge of classical sources; but it was the Historia, published thirteen years after Vesalius’ Fabrica, that brought him fame. Valverde based his illustrations on Vesalius’, although he offered fifteen new ones and improved Vesalius’ with copperplates engraved by Gaspar Becerra; he also made more than sixty corrections and additions to Vesalius’ work including the description of the stapes of the ear, the short palmar muscle, the human uterus, and in particular the true nature of the cardiac septum On the basis of experiments performed with Realdo Colombo, Valverde corrected Galen’s and Vesalius idea that blood passed thorugh the septum from the right ventricle to the left, and he gave an accurate and correct description of the pulmonary circuit of the blood. His text ran to thirteen editions and was printed in preference to Vesalius’. Arturo Castiglioni stated that Valverde’s Historia was the most widely read and studied book of the Renaissance.


I. Original Works. Valverd’s published writings are De animi et corporis sanitate tuenda libellus (Paris, 1552; Venice, 1533); Historia de la composición del cuerpo hmano (Rome, 1556), Italian trans, by Valverde (Rome, 1559, 1560; Venice, 1586, 1606, 1608. 1682). Latin trans, by Michele Colombo (Venice, 1589, 1607); and vivae imagines (Antwerp, 1566, 1572 [colophon dated 15791), also in Dutch (Antwerp, 1568, 1647).

II. Scondary Literature. See Luis Alberti López La anatomía y los anatomistas españoles del Renacimiento (Madrid, 1948); Victor Escribano Garciéa, La anatomía y los anatomistas espaoles del siglo XVI (Granada, 1902); Cesar Fernáandez-Ruiz, “Estudio biograáfico sobre el Dr. D.Juan Valverde, gran anatómico del siglo XVI, y su obra,” in Clínica y laboratorio, 66 (1958), 207–240; and Francisco Guerra, “Juan de Valverde de Amusco,” in Clio medica, 2 (1967), 339–362.

Francisco Guerra