Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

1st Edition - March 13, 2017
This is the Latest Edition
  • Editor: Philip Wexler
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128095546
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128095591

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Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance provides an authoritative and fascinating exploration into the use of toxins and poisons in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Part of the History of Toxicology and Environmental Health series, this volume is a follow-up, chronologically, to the first two volumes which explored toxicology in antiquity. The book approximately covers the 1100s through the 1600s, delving into different aspects of toxicology, such as the contributions of scientific scholars of the time, sensational poisoners and poisoning cases, as well as myths. Historical figures, such as the Borgias and Catherine de Medici are discussed. Toxicologists, students, medical researchers, and those interested in the history of science will find insightful and relevant material in this volume.

Key Features

  • Provides the historical background for understanding modern toxicology
  • Illustrates the ways previous civilizations learned to distinguish safe from hazardous substances, how to avoid them, and how to use them against enemies
  • Explores the way famous historical figures used toxins


Toxicologists, environmental health professionals, science historians, general audience

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1. Poison and Its Dose: Paracelsus on Toxicology

    • Abstract
    • 1.1 The Four Pillars of Medicine
    • 1.2 Poison and the Alchemist in the Stomach
    • 1.3 Noxious Mineral Vapors and the Miner’s Disease
    • 1.4 The Dose Makes the Poison
    • References

    Chapter 2. The Golden Age of Medieval Islamic Toxicology

    • Abstract
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Prominent Toxicologists in Medieval Islamic Era
    • 2.3 Toxicologists after 1500 AD
    • 2.4 Discussion
    • Acknowledgment
    • References

    Chapter 3. Maimonides’ Book on Poisons and the Protection Against Lethal Drugs

    • Abstract
    • 3.1 Maimonides
    • 3.2 Maimonides Medical Works and Medical Practice
    • 3.3 The Treatise on Poisons and the Protection Against Lethal Drugs
    • 3.4 Structure and Contents of On Poisons
    • 3.5 The Hebrew Translations and Their Circulation
    • 3.6 The Latin Translations and Their Circulation
    • References

    Chapter 4. Pietro d’Abano, De venenis: Reintroducing Greek Toxicology into Late Medieval Medicine

    • Abstract
    • Further Readings

    Chapter 5. The Case Against the Borgias: Motive, Opportunity, and Means

    • Abstract
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 Accusations
    • 5.3 Motive
    • 5.4 Opportunity
    • 5.5 Means
    • References

    Chapter 6. Aqua Tofana

    • Abstract
    • 6.1 History
    • 6.2 Symptoms
    • 6.3 Poisons and the Criminal Magical Underworld
    • 6.4 The Slow Poisons
    • References

    Chapter 7. Poisons and the Prince: Toxicology and Statecraft at the Medici Grand Ducal Court

    • Abstract
    • 7.1 Poisons in 16th-Century Society
    • 7.2 Knowledge of Poisons at the Medici Court
    • 7.3 Medici Antidotes
    • 7.4 Testing Poisons
    • 7.5 Resources
    • References

    Chapter 8. Georgius Agricola, a Pioneer in the Toxic Hazards of Mining, and His Influence

    • Abstract
    • 8.1 Education and Early Life
    • 8.2 De re Metallica
    • 8.3 Diseases in Miners and Their Prevention
    • 8.4 Bergsucht and Its Causes
    • 8.5 A Third Wave of Mining in the 20th Century
    • Conflict of Interest
    • References

    Chapter 9. Jan Baptist Van Helmont and the Medical–Alchemical Perspectives of Poison

    • Abstract
    • 9.1 Van Helmont’s Paracelsian Legacy on Poisons
    • 9.2 Universal Poison in a Christian Perspective
    • 9.3 Van Helmont’s Criticism of Galenic Purgatives
    • 9.4 The Alchemical Solution
    • 9.5 Conclusions
    • References

    Chapter 10. Origin of Myths Related to Curative, Antidotal and Other Medicinal Properties of Animal “Horns” in the Middle Ages

    • Abstract
    • 10.1 A Brief History of Alicorn
    • 10.2 Origins
    • 10.3 Unicorns of the Arab World
    • 10.4 Khutu
    • 10.5 The Walrus and the Narwhal
    • 10.6 The Woolly Rhinoceros and Mammoth
    • 10.7 Bone from the Forehead of a Bull
    • 10.8 Conclusion
    • Disclaimer
    • References

    Chapter 11. Animal Stones and the Dark Age of Bezoars

    • Abstract
    • 11.1 Introduction
    • 11.2 Bezoars: Philological, Conceptual, and Symbolic Framework
    • 11.3 Bezoars and Their Glory
    • 11.4 Bezoars in the Mist of History
    • 11.5 Conclusion
    • Acknowledgments
    • References

    Chapter 12. Fossil Sharks’ Teeth as Alexipharmics

    • Abstract
    • 12.1 Fossil Sharks’ Teeth or Glossopetrae
    • 12.2 Tableware
    • 12.3 Provenance of the Teeth
    • 12.4 Lapis de Goa
    • References

    Chapter 13. Catherine La Voisin: Poisons and Magic at the Royal Court of Louis XIV

    • Abstract
    • 13.1 Introduction
    • 13.2 Catherine La Voisin
    • References

    Chapter 14. A Late Medieval Criminal Prosecution for Poisoning: The Failed Murder Trial of Margarida de Portu (1396)

    • Abstract
    • References

    Chapter 15. Animal Venoms in the Middle Ages

    • Abstract
    • 15.1 Introduction
    • 15.2 Venomous Snakes
    • 15.3 Scorpions, Spiders, and Other “Venomous” Animals
    • References

    Chapter 16. Medical Literature on Poison, c. 1300–1600

    • Abstract
    • References

Product details

  • No. of pages: 192
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2017
  • Published: March 13, 2017
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128095546
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128095591

About the Editor

Philip Wexler

Philip Wexler
Philip Wexler retired from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) after a long and eminent federal career in its Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program. While there, he participated in and led intra- and inter-agency teams in the development, enhancement, and maintenance of a broad array of toxicology databases, taking advantage of continuously evolving information technologies. He collaborated on the development of the World Library of Toxicology, the ToxLearn educational tutorial, the Toxicology History Room, and the Toxicology History Association. Mr. Wexler served as Editor-in-Chief for all five editions of Information Resources in Toxicology and served in the same role for editions 1-3 of the Encyclopedia of Toxicology, and the ongoing monographic series, History of Toxicology and Environmental Health, all Elsevier publications. A 4th edition of the Encyclopedia is being planned. In addition, he is co-editor of the book, Chemicals, Environment, Health: A Global Management Perspective and the journal, Global Security: Health Science and Policy, both published by Taylor and Francis. He has authored numerous technical journal articles related to toxicology informatics, education, communications, and history, and chaired sessions, lectured and taught widely on these subjects throughout the globe. Mr. Wexler has been a strong advocate of toxicology public outreach and has organized events at various venues to enhance the public's understanding of the role of toxicology in society and people's lives. He is a trustee of the Toxicology Education Foundation and past chair of the Society of Toxicology's World Wide Web Advisory Team. He is a recipient of the NLM Regents Award for Scholarly or Technical Achievement, the Society of Technical Communications's Distinguished Technical Communication Award, and the Society of Toxicology's Public Communications Award.

Affiliations and Expertise

Retired, National Library of Medicine (NLM), Bethesda, MD, USA