jueves, 17 de octubre de 2013

Francisco Hernández de Toledo. The first scientific expedition of the modern era.

Francisco Hernández was born in Toledo (Spain) studied medicine at the Universidad Complutense of Alcalá, practicing for several years as a doctor in Toledo and Seville and elsewhere gaining recognition and prestige in his profession and returning to Toledo to become court physician. An stay at the Monastery of Guadalupe gives him knowledge about anatomy. His travels through Extremadura and Andalucia and occupancy in the botanical garden of Guadalupe hospitals provide the necessary knowledge about flora and fauna that will be very useful in medical botany. Hernández de Toledo carried out a titanic job well done in the translation of a treatise on natural history of Pliny the Elder (encyclopedia of 37 volumes ...).

Figure. Francisco Hernández de Toledo
Hernandez's work is one of the largest and best in the history of science, but unknown to the majority of people in Spain. Philip II of Spain sends to lead the first scientific expedition "Francisco Hernandez commission" to the colonies of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which would have botanists, geographers and painters being named general protodoctor of our Indies, islands and land firm the Ocean Sea.

Figure. Viceroyalty of New Spain

Hernández de Toledo comission started the travel from Spain in 1571, stopping in the Canary Islands, Santo Domingo and Cuba, where he began his studies in 1572, reaching Veracruz. He walked Central America for 3 years in which indigenous shamans and medics joined Toledo´s group helping in the study of local medicinal techniques and yellow fever. The  commision tour included the central highlands, the southern mare, Oaxaca, Michoacan and Panuco. The notes of his observations were not preserved.
During those years he made ​​a huge collection of dried plants. Living seeds were collected,and trying to prove the medical utility use in the colonies and ordering indigenous knowledge about those plants. Hernández de Toledo studied and performed traditional medicinal practices and different archaeological jobs. 24 Latin books on plants, 2 dedicated to wildlife and minerals in Latin and ten miniatures and illustrations form a collection of 38 volumes, 3 of which written in Nahuatl. In 1576 sent 16 volumes to Philip II that deposited in the library of El Escorial. The orginal disappeared from the library of El Escorial in a fire in 1671 (apparently lasted 15 days) so it lost much of his work (recently were believed to be the 16 drafts sent to Philip II from Mexico City). Philip II ordered edit an abreviated versión to the Italian camera physician Antonio Nardi Recchi (chief physician of the Kingdom of Naples), who, when dying, did delay its publication until 1635 to 1651 in which the Prince of Mesi orders writing the Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus or Treasury of the medicinal things of New Spain, known as "The Hernandez".

Hernández wrote:

A Optimus Maximus King Philip II of Spain and the Indies.
Even though I've commissioned, only to the natural history of the things of this world, Sacred King, and although the position of writing about antiques, can be regarded as that is not mine, however, I judge it not so far from the customs and rituals of the people meantime receives seed Sacred Felipe this story, whatever transmitted, if not the eloquence it suited at least that given by my faith and common affection to his Majesty.

In the manuscripts, hernández described more than 3.000 species of plants, including trees, shrubs, herbs and fruits. In Philippines, New Spain dependents Islands at the time, describing the cinnamon and cloves. He is credited with the description of 230 species of birds, 500 animals and 12 minerals but the loss of the artwork makes identification difficult. In his Natural History of New Spain had a thousand folios in Latin translated into Castilian and Nahuatl with about 2000 illustrations.

At the same time, he described more than 400 animals including mammals, oviparous, insects, reptiles and 35 minerals, used in medicine.

He is considered the discoverer of new species as the pineapple, corn, cocoa, Grenadines, achiote, chili or chilli, datura estramonium, passion fruit, snuff and peyote. Hernandez identified the birds in their Nahuatl name from which it is possible to classify birds. His work was the encyclopedia of natural history in the world about America. Guerra (1950) suggested that hi work had not disappeared in the fire and was found later. His work was first published in Mexico translated by the monk Francisco Ximenez with the title" Quatro libros de naturaleza y virtudes de plantas y animales, 1615. explaning natural remedies Mexico plants.

The envy of its main rival, the Italian cosmgrapher, Juan Bautista de Gesio (who sent a letter to the king asking notto print their works to be analyzed by someone "very inteligent could hinder the publication of his work

Himself describes the intrigues to his friend:

"There are many who whisper behind and throw poison, seeking, envious, ruining the work they haven´t known."
Despite the lack of knowledge of his work and his life some species have the name of Hernández as the genre of plum called Hernandia.

The name of the plants in addition to the books edited by the UNAM can be consulted in the following link:


Chabran, Rafael. Chamberlin, Cynthia. Varey, Simon. (2000). The Mexican treasury: the writings of Dr. Francisco Hernández . Stanford University Press.
De Acosta, José (1596). De natura nova orbis . Mylius. Their work has not been forgotten in other countries. ~ cbenito / hernandez.pdf Hernandez in Mexico: Exile and Censorship? In Searching for the Secrets of Nature. The Life and Works of Dr. Francisco Hernandez . 2 vols. Eds. Simon Varey, Rafael Chabrán, and Dora Weiner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000. Vol I, 41-52

The Antiquities of New Spain
New Spain Natural History
Book of the conquest of New Spain
General History of the Things of New Spain
stoic Issues
and Stoics problems and erotemas philosophical as Aristotle peripatéticosy du Prince.

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