Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128095546, 9780128095591

Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

1st Edition

Editors: Philip Wexler
eBook ISBN: 9780128095591
Paperback ISBN: 9780128095546
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 20th March 2017
Page Count: 192
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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


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


No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2017
Academic Press
eBook ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:

Ratings and Reviews

About the Editors

Philip Wexler

Philip Wexler Editor

Philip Wexler is a Technical Information Specialist at the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program. A recipient of the NLM Regents Award for Scholarly or Technical Achievement and the Distinguished Technical Communication Award of the Washington chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, he is team leader for the development of the ToxLearn online multi-module tutorials, a joint activity with the SOT. Mr. Wexler is also project officer for the LactMed file on drugs and lactation, and the IRIS and ITER risk assessment databases.

He is federal liaison to the Toxicology Education Foundation (TEF), past Chair of SOT’s World Wide Web Advisory Team, and past President of its Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues Specialty Section. Mr. Wexler led the World Library of Toxicology project prior to its migration to the INND/Toxipedia group, and remains a federal liaison to the project. He was a member of the Education and Communications Work Group of the CDC/ATSDR’s National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposure. A co-developer of the Toxicology History Room, he is co-founder and federal liaison to the Toxicology History Association.

Mr. Wexler has lectured and been published widely in the U.S. and abroad on toxicology and toxicoinformatics. He is the Editor-in-Chief of three editions of the Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition, 2014) and four editions of Information Resources in Toxicology (Fourth edition, 2009), as well as numerous other books and articles. In 2010, he was named the recipient of the US Society of Toxicology’s Public Communications Award. Mr. Wexler also serves as an associate editor for a toxicology journal.

Affiliations and Expertise

National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program, Bethesda, MD, USA