Astrological Medicine & A Theory of Tides

MEDICINE. ASTROLOGY. PHYSICS. Grisogono, Federico [Federik Grisogono Bartolačić](b. Zadar, Dalmatia, Yugoslavia, 1472; d. Zadar, 2 January 1538)

De modo collegiandi: pronosticandi: & curandi febres: necnon de humana felicitate: ac denique de fluxu & refluxu maris: lucubrationes nuperrime in lucem edite.

Venice: Impressum a Joan. Anto. de Sabbio & fratribus, 1528


Folio: 30 x 21 cm. [56] p. Collation: A-G4


Bound in modern quarter calf and paste-paper covered boards. A fine, broad-margined copy with a few minor marginal stains, and some early annotations. The full-page instrument is intact with 3 volvelles. Illustrated with a fine woodcut title page border, astrological diagrams, and a two-page ephemeris of stars of the first and second magnitude. PROVENANCE: Irwin Tomash.

First editions of three works by the Dalmatian physician-scientist Federico Grisogono of Zara, who became professor of mathematics and astrology at Padua in 1499. The works concern: 1. Determining a treatment course for curing fevers with the aid of astrological prognostication. 2. A philosophical treatise on human happiness. 3. An influential theory of tides. The first work includes a full-page iatromathematical instrument, outfitted with three functioning volvelles, for making astrological (and other celestial) observations, medical forecasting, and creating horoscopes.

"Grisogono, the son of Antonio de Grisogono and Catarina Giorgi, belonged to one of the most illustrious families of the town of Zadar (Zara). After military adventures in Italy and in France, he studied philosophy and medicine at Padua. He received a doctorate from the University of Padua (1506 or 1507) and then taught astrology and mathematics there. But in 1508 he returned to Zadar. He spent the remainder of his life in his native city, practicing medicine, and making astronomical observations. In 1512 he visited Venice and was prosecuted for his politico-astrological predictions.

"In his medical publications Grisogono appears as an aggressive advocate of astrology. His chief contribution to science concerns the theory of the tides. He supposed that the tides result from the combined action of the sun and the moon and that each of these celestial bodies exerts an attraction on the waters lying not only below its zenith position but also, at the same time and with the same intensity, below its nadir. This hypothesis allowed Grisogono to construct a mathematical model which predicted high tide quite accurately, particularly its second appearance during the day."(M. D. Grmek)

Astrology as an aid to Medicine:

In "The Diagnosis, Prognosis, & Treatment of Fevers", Grisogono sets out to augment the physician's ability to practice medicine by means of “the true science of prediction” (vera scientia prognosticandi). In Grisogono's view, the positions of the constellations and other celestial bodies act as intermediaries between the universal causes of disease and their terrestrial manifestation. 

Grisogono tells us that while Avicenna, along with Hippocrates, and Galen "anticipated the truth when teaching the theory of the critical days of disease (i.e. the days that correspond to various stages in the disease cycle)," those authors "were still far from true cognition because they took the astrological factors insufficiently into account." 

The treatise is outfitted with a full-page, woodcut instrument, with moveable volvelles, which can be used to establish the "critical days". Once the doctor knew the critical days, he could apply medicinal remedies and perform operations accordingly. The discussion of the critical days is preceded by chapters on diagnosing diseases, which include descriptions of specific symptoms.

Theory of Tides:

"Grisogono declared that under the action of the moon exclusively, the sea would assume an ovoid shape, its major axis being directed toward the center of the moon; that the action of the sun would also give it an ovoid shape, less elongated than the first, its major axis being directed toward the center of the sun, and that the variation of sea level, at all times and in all places, was obtained by adding the elevation or depression produced by the solar tide to the elevation or depression produced by the lunar tide."(Duhem) Grisogono's theory was later adopted by Girolamo Cardano, Paolo Galucci, and others.

On Human Happiness:

In "De humana felicitate" Grisogono assesses how and to what degree the various forms of human knowledge (mathematical, astrological, medicinal, etc.) contribute to human happiness. In his earlier treatise on astronomy and mathematics, the "Speculum astronomicum"(1507), Grisogono argued that mathematics is the "most accurate insight into reality" and that all other areas of knowledge (including astrology) are subordinate to it, in the "De felicitate", he glorifies astrology as the greatest contributor to human happiness, arguing that it not only gives man foresight but also reveals what actions should be taken in any and all circumstances. (See Erna Baníc-Pajníc, "Mathematics and Human Happiness according to Federico Grisogono")

Edit16 21833; Sander 1946; Thorndike, History of magic, 5:314-316; USTC 834694