School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Brianne Preston

Brianne Preston

Medicine in Flux: An examination of Lazaro de Soto's exegesis of Places in Man

Project outline

My doctoral thesis examines Lázaro de Soto's commentary on the Hippocratic text, Places in Man, which is included in his 1594 volume, Tomus primus commentationum in Hippocratis libros. Castilian medicine in the Renaissance has been the subject of only limited study in Anglophone literature. Moreover, De Soto himself has received even less attention and thus a contextualisation of this author and his commentary provides a unique opportunity to broaden our understanding of how ancient medicine was utilised by Renaissance physicians.

A case study approach is employed to examine what can be learned about the author of the commentary himself, in addition to asking how this information can be extrapolated further to gain a greater understanding of early modern medicine. This work uses both De Soto's work and his biography to address these questions. Many issues that have informed De Soto's medical understanding are considered, including his education and career, and wider medical movements, such as Vesalianism and humanism. Additionally, specific areas of medicine are given special consideration, including anatomy, physiology, pathology and nosology, precepts and De Soto's reception of the Hippocratic author's ideology. In these explorations of De Soto's comments certain trends begin to emerge. The first, which De Soto states explicitly in his dedication, is a concern for the utilitas publica, as the author tries to provide useful medical information and clarification of the Hippocratic text for practical purposes. Moreover, De Soto uses his commentary as a means to demonstrate his humanist erudition, copiously citing ancient authors, both medical and literary. Finally, throughout De Soto's comments he champions the contested Galenism, rejecting newer theories and connecting Galenism to Places in Man in order to strengthen Galenic authority. In short, De Soto employs this commentary to further both his career and his Galenic understanding of medicine.

Research interests

  • the history of medicine, especially the works of the Hippocratic Corpus
  • ancient medicine
  • the reception of ancient medicine in the Renaissance
  • early modern medical commentary and medical humanism
  • Spanish, particularly Castilian, history in the early modern era
  • the Justinianic Plague

Funding awards

  • Overseas Research Students Award Scheme (ORSAS) 2010-2013
  • Iain M. Lonie PhD Completion Award (2011) – Aided in funding a three week research trip to the Institución Milà i Fontanals in Barcelona and the Instituto de Historia de la Medicina y de la Ciencia López Piñero in Valencia
  • Missouri Bright Flight 2005-2008
  • Nola D. Quisenberry Hall of Sponsors Scholarship 2005-2008

Conference papers

- Preston, B. (2013). "Lázaro de Soto's perceptions of progress in early modern medicine." Presented to Precedent and Progress: Change and continuity in the medieval and early modern world, Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Preston, B. (2012). "Examining the life and work of Lazaro de Soto." Presented to the NEMS PGR Symposium: Past and Future Tenses, Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Preston, B. (2012). "Harkening to Hippocrates: Anatomical reception and commentary in early modern Castile." Presented to the Newcastle University Postgraduate Forum, Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Preston, B. (2012). "Understanding Hippocratic commentary through the work of Lázaro de Soto." Presented to the Newcastle University Postgraduate Forum, Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Preston, B. (2010). "Lancing the Boil: A reassessment of the Justinianic Plague." Presented to the Newcastle University Postgraduate Forum, Newcastle upon Tyne


Other roles

- Module leader: Love and Life in Rome and Verona (CAC1013)
- Contributing lecturer: Approaches to the History of Western Medicine (HIS2078), The Long Shadow of Melancholy (CAC3056), Sex, Bodies and Identities in Antiquity (CAH2013), World Empires (HIS1025)
- Seminar leader: World Empires (HIS1025), European History (HIS1027), Approaches to the History of Western Medicine (HIS2078), Human Dissection in Antiquity (CAC2045), The Long Shadow of Melancholy (CAC3056), In Alexander's Footsteps (CAH2006), Sex, Bodies and Identities in Antiquity (CAH2013), Tragedy, Comedy, History: The World of Greek Literature (CAC1014)
- 2014: Website developer for the Northern Centre for the History of Medicine, Newcastle upon Tyne
- 2013: Indexing of T. Rütten and M. King (eds.), Contagionism and Contagious Disease. Medicine and Literature, 1880-1933. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013
- 2012-2013: Chair of Postgraduate Forum Lunchtime Seminar, Newcastle University
- 2012-2013: Organizer of the Medieval and Early Modern Reading group, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities
- 2012-2013: Postgraduate student representative in Classics for the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University
- 2012: Introduction to Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (ITLHE) – Part A (October, 2012)
- 2010-2014: Newcastle University, Research Development course, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
- 2010-2011: Assisted early modern Latin translation for an independent scholar
- 2010: National Museum of Scotland - Audience Research intern for the Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked exhibition

Academic qualifications

Newcastle University. Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: October 2010 - January 2015.
- PhD in Classics (emphasis in the History of Medicine).
- Thesis: ‘Medicine in Flux: An examination of Lazaro de Soto’s exegesis of Places in Man’ (viva voce: December 2014; PhD awarded without corrections).

University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: September 2009- September 2010.
- MSc in Classics (honours)
- Dissertation: ‘Lancing the Boil: A reassessment of the Justinianic Plague’ (awarded with distinction).

Central Methodist University. Missouri, United States of America: September 2005-December 2008.
- BSc in History, Biology (magna cum laude).