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March 16, 1994

Quinine's Predecessor: Francesco Torti and the Early History of Cinchona

JAMA. 1994;271(11):881-882. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510350093052

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According to the author, "the purpose of this book is to relate, in ample detail, the early history of the Peruvian bark, also known as Jesuits' bark and later formally baptized cinchona." In this task, Jarcho, a retired internist who received special training in pathology, tropical medicine, public health, and ancient and modern languages, succeeds magnificently. The 354 pages of text, illustrations, and references that follow detail the discovery of cinchona by Europeans and its introduction into Western medical practice.

The contributions of the Modenese physician Francesco Torti are particularly emphasized. Torti was one of the first European physicians to successfully use cinchona bark in the treatment of malarial infections. Succinct biographical sketches of other practitioners during the 17th and 18th centuries who were instrumental in promoting the use of this drug among the European medical community are also presented. It was especially interesting to read of the problems these

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