Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word “Syphilis”

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Friday, May 27th, 2011

In a 1530 epic poem, Italian physician and poet Hieronymus Fracastorius coined ‘Syphilis’ as the name of the poem’s main character, a shepherd afflicted with the dreaded disease. Medical historian Dr. Howard Markel and STD expert Dr. Peter Leone discuss the disease’s history and its resurgence today. Dr. Markel writes:

Half a millennium ago, in 1530, Syphilis was a beloved literary character created by a gentleman from Verona

The eminent Italian physician, poet, mathematician, geographer, and astronomer Hieronymus Fracastorius (1478-1553) coined the word syphilis while composing an epic poem called “Syphilis Sive Morbus Gallicus” (“Syphilis, or the French Disease”)….

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