With unprecedented clarity and care, Gianna Pomata brings an important text in the history of scientific authorship to the attention of modern-day readers. Published in Spain in 1587 under the name of Oliva Sabuco, True Philosophy of Human Nature, of which The True Medicine is part, was soon thereafter claimed to be the work of her father's pen. Since the beginning of the 20th century approaches to the text have often focused uncritically on the authorial controversy, providing polarized irreconcilable interpretations. Pomata, however, explores the wider context of production and reception of True Philosophy with analytical sophistication, making it inseparable from the authorial question and tracing the most reliable historical understanding to date of this influential text. Her English translation flows accurately while avoiding anachronism and will surely become standard reference for anyone interested in the cultural history of female authorship or early modern medicine and science.
Associate Professor of the History of Science and Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program
Universidad de Cantabria, Spain
One of the first printed medical texts to be attributed to a female author, The True Medicine (1587) is radically innovative in its rejection of contemporary medical theory for a more pro-feminist physiology and cosmology. Although Pomata does not conclusively solve the puzzle of whether this fascinating and influential work was written by Oliva Sabuco or her father, she offers a masterly review of the evidence. This splendid translation, together with its authoritative introduction and annotations, will be of the greatest interest to scholars and teachers in the history of science and medicine, women's history, and early modern studies.
Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science
This volume offers a new annotated translation, with introduction, of the Dialogue on the True Medicine, one of a series of dialogues published in 1587 as Nueva Filosofia de la Naturaleza del Hombre (New Philosophy of Human Nature), under the name of Oliva Sabuco de Nantes Barrera. Believed for centuries to be a woman’s work, the book was attributed to Oliva’s father Miguel Sabuco in the early twentieth century, and its authorship remains a matter of controversy today. Sabuco’s work is one of the most intriguing texts of sixteenth-century medicine. Defined by its author as “a book that was missing in the world,” the work proposes a new ambitious medical theory challenging the humoral view of disease and the main tenets of Galenic physiology. This annotated translation allows the reader to locate the Dialogue on the True Medicine in the context of early modern medical and philosophical culture, identifying Sabuco’s ancient and modern sources. The editor’s introduction reviews the contested issue of authorship, offers new documentation for the history of the reception of Sabuco’s ideas in the seventeenth century, and relates Sabuco’s work to the Querelle des femmes, the protofeminist debate which had remarkable echoes in early modern medicine.
GIANNA POMATA is professor of the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
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