Girolamo Fracastoro

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fracastoro, Girolamo


Born 1478 in Verona; died there Aug. 8, 1553. Italian Renaissance physician, astronomer, and poet.

In 1502, Fracastoro graduated from the university in Padua and subsequently became a professor there. His first scientific works dealt with geology (the history of the earth), geography, optics (light refraction), astronomy (observation of the moon and stars), philosophy, and psychology. In 1530 he published the scientific didactic poem Syphilis sive morbus Gallicus (Syphilis, or the French Disease), from which the disease received its name.

In his major work, De contagione et contagiosis morbis et curatione (On Contagion, Contagious Diseases, and Treatment; 1546), which has been repeatedly reprinted in many countries, Fracastoro presented his theory for the nature, transmission, and treatment of contagious diseases. He described three pathways of infection: (1) through direct contact, (2) through objects known as fomites, (3) over a distance, by way of imperceptible seeds of contagion, which he called seminaria. According to Fracastoro, an infection has a material basis (“contagion is corporal”). Fracastoro was the first to use the term “infection” in the medical sense. He described smallpox, measles, bubonic plague, consumption, rabies, leprosy, and typhus. In the development of his views of the contagious nature of infections, he partially retained (in regard to syphilis) earlier concepts of the transmission of these diseases through a miasma.

Fracastoro’s works laid the foundations for epidemiology and the clinical treatment of infectious diseases.


Opera omnia. Venice, 1584.
In Russian translation:
O kontagii, kontagioznykh bolezniakh i lechenii, fascs. 1–3. Introductory article by P. E. Zabludovskii. Moscow, 1954.
O sifilise. Moscow, 1956.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(The current name was adopted after shepherd Syphilis who was stricken with the French disease for an act of impiety in the popular 1530 poem by the Italian physician Fracastoro.) In Savonarola's Good Friday vision a black cross "Crux Irae Dei" rose above Rome, and a golden cross "Crux Misericordiae Dei" rose above Jerusalem and all the nations flocked to adore it, a curious prefigurement of the modern Divine Mercy devotion which starts on Good Friday.
Mario Girolamo Fracastoro born; an Italian astronomer; Director of the Catania Observatory 1956-'68; Director of the Pinto Torinese observatory; studied solar physics.
However, Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro was the first man to use the word "syphilis" in 1530 in a Latin poem.
Not until the Renaissance, in the decades around 1500, was the theory of miasma expanded to include the idea that healthy persons could be infected by touching infected persons or objects contaminated by them with miasma (fomites), the Fracastoro miasmatic-contagionistic theory of cross-infection and epidemic spread (1-6).
Within 50 years of the Neapolitan outbreak, Verona's Girolamo Fracastoro, a physician, geographer, and mathematician, published the epic poem "Syphilis sive morbus gallicus" ("Syphilis or the French disease," a title suggesting where Fracastoro's epidemiologic sympathies lay).
Ma i dati, alla lettera, non sono tali e implicano invece gli accidenti e le fortune di una formidabile iniziativa, fatta di relazioni e scambi con una pluralita di attori che supera di molto le eccellenti amicizie (Bembo, Navagero, Fracastoro) all'ombra delle quali la storiografia ha spesso confinato la figura di Ramusio.