Science and the Renaissance - Vol. 1

By W. P. D. Wightman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
THE MEDICAL DISCIPLINES--
SYSTEM AND METHOD

'SINCE for the great desire I had to see fair Padua, nursery of arts, I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy. . . .' The words are spoken by Lucentio, but the thought may well have been Shakespeare's own; for throughout the century at the end of which he wrote these words there had been a procession of Englishmen making their way to Padua, not only to see it, but to learn, and some even to teach, in that 'nursery of arts': Linacre, Edward Wotton, John Caius, and, a few years after Shakespeare had voiced the thought, the greatest of them all, William Harvey. Why did this medical school draw so many ambitious young men? The answer--or most of it--was Montanus, Vesalius, Realdus Columbus, Gabriel Fallopius, Hieronymus Fabricius, these were their teachers; but as a fellow student some of them would have had Hieronymus Fracastorius; and Harvey, Galileo. Here, if anywhere, was a place where a new birth--not merely a rebirth; for its throwing off of the cramping bookishness of the Humanist Renaissance was its most distinctive feature--of human biology can be as it were watched from our vantage point. What Salerno was until the twelfth century and Bologna and Montpellier in the thirteenth and fourteenth, Padua grew to be and to surpass in the fifteenth. Not that the lead of Bologna1 was eclipsed; not that Montpellier, under the shock of François Rabelais (No. 342(7)) and the wide-ranging learning of Rondelet, did not achieve its own rebirth; but in every department of medicine, as it was then conceived, Padua was pre-eminent; no such lineage of teachers can be equalled elsewhere.

Since our concern is with Science and the Renaissance we must as far as possible restrict our attention here to those activities

____________________
1
The claim that 'in the sciences and in medicine the Studium of Bologna was equalled, possibly, only by the Studium of Padua' is made by Gnudi and Webster, The Life and Times of Gaspare Togliacozzi.

-207-

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