Past Event

Mackenzie Cooley - The Trouble with Simples: A Professor’s Unfinished Pharmacopeia in Enlightenment Venice

October 18, 2023
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
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Online and in-person: Gallatin School (Room 801), New York University, 1 Washington Place, New York

Event Description 

While contemporaries worried about the health and wealth of nations, the Enlightenment polymath Professor Simone Stratico (1733-1824) sought to make a uniquely Venetian pharmacopeia—an official list of medicinal drugs—specifically tailored to the health of La Serenissima. According to Stratico and his academic collaborators, the canals that had once transported the spices at the center of the medieval and early modern medical trade had become saturated with local apothecaries who had reputations for price gauging, quackery, and even heresy. Using the late eighteenth-century manuscript collection “Studies for a Venetian Pharmacopeia” from the Biblioteca Marciana, this talk follows Stratico’s attempt to welcome university experts in medicine, surgery, and chemistry to the process of creating a standardized list of Venetian drugs. In so doing, Stratico, born into the Venetian empire, whittled down the world’s pharmacological wonders to a medical vocabulary for it, including natural products with plant, animal, or mineral origins. However, the process was more challenging than he thought. What, after all, was the medically useful part of a plant? How might, say, a stem, be standardized and measured either by volume or potency? The deeper Stratico looked, the more befuddling the quagmire of uncertainty. Through Stratico’s extensive unpublished writing and editorial choices, this talk will parse the challenges of an eighteenth-century moment focused on standardization, the intertwining of natural history and drug discovery, and the use of symbols to represent substances.

Event Speaker

Mackenzie Cooley, Assistant Professor of History at Hamilton College

Event Information

This event is free and open to the public; Registration required. In-person registration closes at 12PM on the event day. In-person attendees must follow NYU's COVID-19 policies. Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for questions. 

This event is part of the New York History of Science Lecture Series.

Sponsoring Organizations:

  • Columbia University in the City of New York
  • NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • The New York Academy of Medicine
  • The New York Academy of Sciences