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Trotula and the Ladies of Salerno: A Contribution to the Knowledge of the Transition between Ancient and Medieval Physick

Trotula and the Ladies of Salerno: A Contribution to the Knowledge of the Transition between Ancient and Medieval Physick

By H. P. Bayon

Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol.33:8 (1940)

Introduction: The first incentive to this essay came from Bibliothecac Osleriana (1929), where, referring to the salernitan gynaecological treatise, entitled De passionibus mulierum, ante, in & post partum, usually attributed to Trotula, it is said:

The first woman professor has been deprived of more than her chair by the unchivalrous mythoclasts of the school of Sudhoff. The Good-wife Trotula passed long ago into the fairy-tales as Dame Trot” . . Alas! she too had no real existence.

This ruthless destroyer of charming legends was Charles Singer, who jointly with Dorothea Singer, in the Sudhoff Festschrift, 1924, attempted a literary reconstruction of the medical school of Salerno, the first University. The Authors suggested that the fragmentary compilations attributed to a Trotula of Salerno were in reality by a man, Trottus, but had been ascribed to a woman, because of the ” peeping Tom” nature of the observations they contained, and concluded:

The situation is not devoid of humour and thus fades into nothingness the first woman professor whose life a learned medical historian once essayed to write.

This opinion appeared in later writings, was quoted by Thorndike (1929), and then by Powicke and Emden, editors of Rashdall’s The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (1936) and others besides.

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