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January 17, 1986

Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence

JAMA. 1986;255(3):412-413. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370030136045

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Katharine Park's study is essentially a social history of Florentine physicians during the late 14th and 15th centuries. The theory and practice of medicine are by no means ignored, but much more attention is given to the sociological position of physicians who were responding to the crisis caused by the Black Death following 1348.

Utilizing an array of archival and published sources, the author shows that the medical practitioners of Florence were not a small, closed group attending only to the rich. On the contrary, they were a diverse body made up of university-educated physicians and surgeons, as well as surgeons and empirics who had no formal training, but learned only through apprenticeships and experience to treat an assortment of diseases in addition to ailments of the teeth, eyes, and bones, boils, and hernias. Highly specialized and therefore exhibiting a general lack of conflict among themselves, they catered to a