chapter  7
18 Pages

Trading in Medical Simples and Developing the New Science: de Orta and His Contemporaries

Interpretations of what has survived about Garcia de Orta are many. Some have seen his writing as modern because of its scientific empiricism, others have seen him as abiding by the academic traditions of his day because of his supposed Galenism. People have also examined personal interactions with great Portuguese officers and South Asian princes, as well as the shocking attack by the Inquisition on his body and his family following his death for cryptoJudaism, and wondered how he could have negotiated such dangerous waters when alive to the extent that he not only published the first book printed at Goa but did so with a prefatory poem by the great poet, Luis de Camões.2 In recent years, scholars have also noticed Orta’s personal involvement with commerce, which was at the centre of the concerns of the Portuguese trading system with

1 I would like to thank Palmira Fontes da Costa for the invitation to join the conference on Orta, for the hospitality of the Calouste Gulbenkain Foundation and for the helpful comments of the other participants.