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Fracastoro, Girolamo

passed diseases proposed physician

[fraka staw roh] ( c .1478–1553) Italian logician and physician: proposed early theory of germ origin of disease.

Having studied a variety of subjects at Padua, Fracastoro became lecturer in logic there in 1501. After moves due to war and plague, he settled in Verona from 1516, practising as a physician until 1534. Thereafter he spent his retirement in research. His major medical book, On Contagion and Contagious Diseases (1546), gave the first logical explanation of the long-known facts that some diseases can be passed from person to person or passed by infected articles. Fracastoro had in 1530 described and named syphilis (previously ‘the French disease’), which was epidemic in Europe from about 1500. He proposed that infection is due to minute self-multiplying bodies which can infect by direct contact or indirectly through infected articles, or which can be passed at a distance. His ideas were not widely adopted, many preferring the notion of miasmata, exhalations from earth or air which caused disease. Only much later did and others show the essential correctness of Fracastoro’s proposals.

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