chapter  11
24 Pages

‘Enduring Echoes of Garcia de Orta’: the Royal Hospital Gardens in Goa and Evolving Hybridization in Portuguese Colonial Medical Culture

Portuguese colonial exploration and settlement during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries included a significant dimension of medical inquiry, the impact of which resonated throughout the European scientific world and beyond, enduring far longer than the commercial and military salience of the Lusophone maritime empire.1 Early trading contacts with native peoples and sustained missionary activity, combined with pragmatic attempts to address threats to the health of European settlers in the tropics, occasioned Portuguese medical-botanical prospecting throughout the East Indies, in India, the Persian Gulf, China, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as in Africa and Brazil. Such pioneering experimentation added extensively to European knowledge of pharmacological botany and an understanding of traditional indigenous healing practices. The abiding medical impact of these early scientific inquiries, Garcia de Orta’s principal among them, within Portugal and across the Lusophone world lasted into the nineteenth century.