The Professor of Secrets

The Professor of Secrets

Mystery, Medicine, and Alchemy in Renaissance Italy

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
In the tradition of Galileo's Daughter and Brunelleschi's Dome, this exciting story illuminates the captivating world of the late Renaissance—in this case its plagues, remedies, and alchemy—through the life of Leonardo Fioravanti, a brilliant, remarkably forward-thinking, and utterly unconventional doctor. Fioravanti's marvelous cures and talent for self-aggrandizement earned him the adoration of the people, the scorn of the medical establishment, and a reputation as one of the age's most colorful, combative figures. Written by Pulitzer-prize nominated historian William Eamon, The Professor of Secrets entices readers into a dangerous scientific underworld of sorcerers and surgeons. Meticulously researched and engagingly written, this gripping narrative will appeal to those interested in Renaissance history, the development of science, and the historical thrillers so popular today.

Baker & Taylor
A riveting tale explores the Renaissance era's medicine and culture through the life of the first "celebrity doctor," whose miracle cures and larger-than-life personality drew both adoration and scorn. By the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in the Medieval and Early Modern Culture.

Book News
In this entertaining biography of Neapolitan physician and self-promoter Leonardo Fioravanti, Eamon (history, New Mexico State University) gives a portrait of sixteenth century Italy that is far more realistic than that of those who follow the myth of the Renaissance. This fits well with Fioravanti's own myth making. He was a medical iconoclast and some of his theories foresaw the techniques of modern medicine. He learned alchemical distillation to create his own medicines, which he sold far and wide. He also took advantage of the new printing press to disseminate his recommendations for treatments. Derided (he said persecuted) by the medical establishment, Fioravanti nevertheless became internationally known. This is a tale of the first steps toward observational medical science as well as of an enigmatic practitioner whose life and death are still a puzzle. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Blackwell Publishing
Set against the sumptuous backdrop of Renaissance Italy, this riveting historical thriller explores the era's medicine and culture through the life of the world's first "celebrity doctor"---whose miracle cures and outsize personality drew both adoration and scorn.

The Professor of Secrets was Leonardo Fioravanti, a brilliant, forward-thinking, and utterly unconventional doctor. His marvelous remedies and talent for self-aggrandizement earned him the admiration of the people, the derision of the medical establishment, and a reputation as one of his era's most colorful and combative figures.

Meticulously researched and engagingly written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated historian William Eamon, The Professor of Secrets entices us into a scientific underworld of sorcerers, plagues, and alchemy, where charlatans sold their wares in the streets, gunfire inflicted horrifying wounds, and surgeons attempted daring cures. The little-known story of the controversial doctor who practiced in an age when warfare was the surgeon's school will grip and fascinate all who take pleasure in Renaissance intrigue, the milestones of medicine, and the best of historical tales.

To The Common People, he was "that glorious man of new miracles" and "an angel of paradise, sent by God to earth for the health and preservation of human life." Yet fellow scientists branded him a charlatan and a dangerous quack---and he served time in prison for poisoning his patients. It was from his cell that Leonardo Fioravanti issued an audacious challenge: "Let there be consigned to me alone twenty or twenty-five sick people...and an equal number with similar infirmities to all the physicians of Milan. If I don't cure my patients quicker and better than they do theirs, I'm willing to be banished forever..."

In this impeccably crafted tale, noted historian William Eamon chronicles they stranger-than-fiction life of surgeon Leonardo Fioravanti, the original "celebrity physician"---whose saga opens a captivating window onto the scientific and medical practices of the late Renaissance. Eamon points up the unromanticized realities of the age, chronicling a time when the next devastating plague was just a flea bite away...when corsairs roamed the Mediterranean Sea...when barber surgeons bled their patients along with giving them a shave...when one could buy a ticket to view the dissection of a human body...and when scientists practiced a "chemistry-kit-in-the-basement" style of experimentation. The Professor of Secrets reconstructs a fascinating character lost to history and offers us an alternative version of the Scientific Revolution, through the experiences of a man who lived on the margins of great events and witnessed them with a penetrating vision. In telling this spellbinding story, Eamon offers up a brilliant entry in the genre of popular history.

Publisher: Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, c2010
ISBN: 9781426206504
Characteristics: 368 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Jan 24, 2015

in the film words of Michael Vallon, "We're deep thinkers."

Jun 01, 2011

Might be interesting for someone in the medical field wanting the history of diseases but as for a story this account is way too tedious and not that engaging. I would skip it.


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