Northern Centre for the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities

Brianne Preston

PhD Student in Classics/History of Medicine
School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University


I am currently in the final year of my doctoral studies in Classics with an emphasis in the History of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Rütten and Dr. Susanna Phillippo. My thesis is entitled "Hippocratic Commentary in Early Modern Spain: An examination of Lázaro de Soto's exegesis of De locis in homine."

For my doctoral thesis I have proposed to translate and examine Lázaro de Soto's medical commentary of the Hippocratic text De locis in homine, from his volume of Hippocratic commentaries entitled, Tomus primus commentationum in Hippocratis libros (1594).  By doing so, I hope to extrapolate a clearer picture of the reception of Hippocratic theory and gain a greater understanding of the role of medical commentary in the early modern era.  Many factors have impacted the reception of these ancient medical ideas, such as the reformation and the counter-reformation, the Renaissance and humanistic ideology, as well as new discoveries made in the fields of medicine and natural philosophy.  In addition, I intend to explore the history and the role of the genre of medical commentary itself, and its importance in early modern medical culture. 

In order to understand these links between antiquity and early modernity, an exploration of intertextuality between the Hippocratic corpus, commentaries and other medical sources is vital. Moreover, a translation of de Soto’s commentary of De locis in homine and comparison of the Latin lemmata of the primary Hippocratic text used by him with the Latin translation by Janus Cornarius have been useful starting points in tackling such a large text and Elizabeth Craik’s critical edition of De locis in homine has provided a foundation for studying the original Hippocratic work. Beginning with this framework, my thesis utilises a case-study approach to de Soto’s commentary, selecting a text relevant to each major theme of De locis in homine, categorized by Craik as anatomy, physiology, pathology and nosology, precepts, and the ideology of medicine and medical education. 

Examining the life and work of Lázaro de Soto provides an opportunity to better understand the typical medical training and career of an academic physician in early modern Castile. Staunchly Galenistic, de Soto follows a conventional understanding of flux and humoural theory, likely due to the more conservative teaching he received at the University of Valladolid. He discusses issues, but rarely disagrees outright with either the Hippocratic author or Galen. He cites Avicenna copiously while avoiding or disagreeing the new trends and theories introduced by thinkers such as Vesalius or Paracelsus. And while the work of a more conservative physician may not always seem the most glamorous of options, de Soto provides an important example of the resilience of classical medicine in an era of change.

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

Curriculum Vitae

In 2008 I graduated magna cum laude from Central Methodist University (Missouri, USA) with my BSc in History with an additional emphasis in Biology. I attended the University of Edinburgh in 2010 and completed my MSc with distinction, entitled "Lancing the Boil: A reassessment of the Justinianic Plague".


• 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


• Precedent and Progress: Change and Continuity in the Medieval and Early Modern World (co-organiser)
o 2013 – “Lázaro de Soto's Perceptions of Progress in Early Modern Medicine”
• Newcastle University Postgraduate Forum
o 2013 – “Harkening to Hippocrates: Anatomical reception and commentary in early modern Castile”
o 2012 – “Understanding Hippocratic commentary through the work of Lázaro de Soto”
o 2010 – “Lancing the Boil:  A Reassessment of the Justinianic Plague”
• NEMS PGR Symposium:  Past and Future Tenses
o 2012 – “Examining the life and work of Lázaro de Soto”


• Seminar Leader on first year World Empires course   2013
• Facilitated student registers during lectures              2012-2013
• Led a seminar for second/third year Human Dissection in Antiquity course; presented on Hippocratic conceptions of anatomy                            2012

Other Information

In the academic year of 2011/2012, I facilitated the Newcastle University Postgraduate Forum's Lunchtime Seminar Series. I also co-organised the Medieval and Early Modern reading group, which includes postgraduates from both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities. Additionally, I have completed two internships, acting as the Audience Research Intern for the "Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked" exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh (2010) and the Public Programs Intern at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (2008).

Contact Details

School of History, Classics and Archaeology
Armstrong Building
Newcastle University
Newcastle upon Tyne

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