Pedanius Dioscorides

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Pedanius Dioscorides

Birthplace: Anazarbus (modern day Anavarza) Anatolia, Turkey
Death: circa 90 (41-58)
Immediate Family:

Son of nn Dioscorides

Occupation: Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist
Managed by: Yigal Burstein
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Pedanius Dioscorides

Pedanius Dioscorides (Ancient Greek: Πεδάνιος Διοσκουρίδης; circa 40—90 AD) was a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, the author of De Materia Medica—a 5-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine and related medicinal substances (a pharmacopeia), that was widely read for more than 1,500 years.


A native of Anazarbus, Cilicia, Asia Minor, Dioscorides "practiced in Rome at the time of Nero. He was a surgeon with the army of the emperor, so he had the opportunity to travel extensively, seeking medicinal substances (plants and minerals) from all over the Roman and Greek world."

Between AD 50 and 70 Dioscorides wrote a five-volume book in his native Greek, Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς, known more widely by its Latin title De Materia Medica ("Regarding Medical Materials") which became the precursor to all modern pharmacopeias.

In contrast to many classical authors, Dioscorides' works were not "rediscovered" in the Renaissance, because his book had never left circulation; indeed, with regard to Western materia medica through the early modern period, Dioscorides' text eclipsed the Hippocratic corpus. In the medieval period, De Materia Medica was circulated in Latin, Greek, and Arabic. While being reproduced in manuscript form through the centuries, it was often supplemented with commentary and minor additions from Arabic and Indian sources. A number of illustrated manuscripts of De Materia Medica survive. The most famous of these is the lavishly illustrated Vienna Dioscurides, produced in Constantinople in 512/513 AD. Densely illustrated Arabic copies survive from the 12th and 13th centuries, while Greek manuscripts survive today in the monasteries of Mount Athos.

De Materia Medica is the prime historical source of information about the medicines used by the Greeks, Romans, and other cultures of antiquity. The work also records the Dacian and Thracian names for some plants, which otherwise would have been lost. The work presents about 600 plants in all, although the descriptions are sometimes obscurely phrased, leading to comments such as: "Numerous individuals from the Middle Ages on have struggled with the identity of the recondite kinds", while some of the botanical identifications of Dioscorides' plants remain merely guesses.

De Materia Medica formed the core of the European pharmacopeia through the 19th century, suggesting that "the timelessness of Dioscorides' work resulted from an empirical tradition based on trial and error; that it worked for generation after generation despite social and cultural changes and changes in medical theory".

Pedanius Dioscorides

About Pedanius Dioscorides (Ελληνικά)

De Materia Medica - Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς

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