Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Olivia Weisser

Second Advisor

Elizabeth McCahill

Third Advisor

Reyes Coll-Tellechea


This thesis examines that perceptions of learned male authors and physicians in early modern Spain towards the use of stones in medicine. It compares the ways these male authors wrote about the use of lapidary medicine by female and male practitioners by analyzing a variety of sources from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, including medical treatises, a Spanish language dictionary, a theological treatise, and literature. It argues that physicians’ perceptions of lapidary medicine were contingent on its specific form and, most importantly, its practitioner.

Early modern Spanish practitioners used stones in internal and external medicines and treatments, including drinks, pills, plasters, and amulets. Physicians portrayed stones used by women as magical amulets and talismans, while viewing their own use of whole stones bound to the body as natural amulets. Overall, Spanish physicians viewed female use of lapidary medicine as superstitious, diabolical, and ineffective. In contrast, physicians wrote about their own stone treatments as natural Galenic medicine that cured by balancing the patient’s humors. Physicians supported the efficacy of natural stone remedies by writing about personal anecdotes and recounting experiments, both of which bolstered their statuses in the competitive medical marketplace. Physicians wrote about their experiments with a sense of empiricism, while at the same time rejecting the hands-on experiences of female practitioners because women’s knowledge was not backed by a formal education in traditional Galenic medicine.


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