Assistant Professor of History Mackenzie Cooley presented “The Trouble with Simples: A Professor’s Unfinished Pharmacopeia in Enlightenment Venice” in a recent lecture at New York University. The talk was part of the New York History of Science Lecture Series.
Cooley’s discussion focused on Professor Simone Stratico (1733-1824) who set out to create a pharmacopeia, or official list of medicinal drugs, specific to people’s health in the Republic of Venice.
The talk followed Stratico’s attempt to welcome university experts in medicine, surgery, and chemistry to the process of creating a standardized list of Venetian drugs. Cooley said that by doing so, Stratico whittled down the world’s pharmacological wonders to a medical vocabulary that included natural products with plant, animal, or mineral origins.”
Using Stratico’s extensive unpublished writing and editorial choices, Cooley parsed “the challenges of an 18th-century moment focused on standardization, the intertwining of natural history and drug discovery, and the use of symbols to represent substances.”