Paula S. De Vos

Paula S. De Vos is professor of history at San Diego State University and an editor of Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500-1800.

Compound Remedies

Galenic Pharmacy from the Ancient Mediterranean to New Spain

Compound Remedies examines the equipment, books, and remedies of colonial Mexico City’s Herrera pharmacy—natural substances with known healing powers that formed the basis for modern-day healing traditions and home remedies in Mexico. Paula De Vos traces the evolution of the Galenic pharmaceutical tradition from its foundations in Ancient Greece to the physician-philosophers of the Islamic empires in the medieval Latin West and eventually through the Spanish Empire to Mexico, offering a global history of the transmission of these materials, knowledges, and techniques. Her detailed inventory of the Herrera pharmacy reveals the many layers of this tradition and how it developed over centuries, providing new perspectives and insight into the development of Western science and medicine: its varied origins, its engagement with and inclusion of multiple knowledge traditions, the ways in which these traditions moved and circulated in relation to imperialism, and its long-term continuities and dramatic transformations. De Vos ultimately reveals the great significance of pharmacy, and of artisanal pursuits more generally, as a cornerstone of ancient, medieval, and early modern epistemologies and philosophies of nature.