Skip Navigation

Skip to Main Content

The Singleton Center

Main Navigation:

The Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe
The Johns Hopkins University
Gilman Hall 301
Baltimore, MD 21218

Lawrence Principe

Phone (410) 516-5296
Fax (410) 516-7586

Gianna Pomata

Institute for the History of Medicine

Gianna Pomata

Office: 1900 East Monument Street
Phone: (410) 955-3037


I was educated and trained in Italy, but for the last twenty five years my professional life as a historian has been divided almost equally between Europe and the United States. Before coming to Hopkins in 2007, I have taught for many years at the Universities of Bologna and Minnesota. My research interests include early modern European social and cultural history, with a main focus on the history of medicine. Most recently, I have worked on the history of scientific observation, with particular attention to medical case narratives and their role in the rise of scientific empiricism. I have written on the early modern genre of historia and its significance in medicine and anatomy. I have also studied concepts and rules of evidence as they developed at the intersection of early modern medicine and religion (the role of physicians in assessing miraculous evidence in canonization proceedings). I have contributed to the history of the healer/patient relationship by reconstructing the long-forgotten custom of contractual agreements between practitioners and patients.

I am currently at work on a book project, A Science of Individuals: the Case History in Pre-Modern European Medicine. I study the development of the medical case history in a long-term perspective by tracing its antecedents in ancient Greek, medieval European and medieval Arabic medicine. In a cross-cultural perspective, I compare the early-modern European collections of case narratives with the case collections that developed in early modern Chinese medicine. This project combines my long-standing engagement with the history of the doctor/patient relationship with my more recent interest in individualized medicine.

I have also a strong interest in women’s history, gender history, and the history of the body, to which I have contributed with various essays on women healers and women patients, the history of menstruation and lactation, concepts of sexual difference in early modern medicine, the cult of holy bodies and relics. My most recent publication in this field is a critical edition and translation of Oliva Sabuco’s The True Medicine, one of the very few medical works published under a woman’s name in early modern Europe.

Recent Publications


Oliva Sabuco de Nantes Barrera, The True Medicine, edited and translated by Gianna Pomata (Toronto: Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2010).

Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005, co-edited with Nancy G. Siraisi)

I monasteri femminili come centri di cultura fra Rinascimento e Barocco (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005, co-edited with Gabriella Zarri).

The Faces of Nature in Enlightenment Europe ( Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2003, co-edited with Lorraine Daston)

Contracting a Cure: Patients, Healers, and the Law in Early Modern Bologna (Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998; Italian edition: La promessa di guarigione: malati e curatori in antico regime, Bologna, secoli XVI-XVIII, Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1994.)

Selected Articles:

Forthcoming: “Amateurs by Choice: Women and the Pursuit of independent Scholarship in Twentieth-Century Historical Writing”, in Centaurus. An International Journal of the History of Science and its Cultural Aspects, 55/1 (2013).

“Observation Rising: Birth of an Epistemic Genre, ca. 1500-1650” in Histories of Scientific Observation, ed. Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011, pp. 45-80.

“A Word of the Empirics: The Ancient Concept of Observation and its Recovery in Early Modern Medicine”, in Annals of Science, 68/1 (2011), pp. 1-26.

“Sharing Cases: the Observationes in Early Modern Medicine”, in Early Science and Medicine, 15/3 (2010), pp. 193-236.

“Feminism as Integral to the History of Humanism” in Humanism in Intercultural Perspective: Experiences and Expectations, ed. Jörn Rüsen and Henner Laass, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2009, vol. 1, pp. 167-176.

“Dalla biografia alla storia e ritorno: Iris Origo tra Bloomsbury e Toscana”, in Genesis, Rivista della Società Italiana delle Storiche, 6/1 (2008), pp. 117-157.

“Malpighi and the Holy Body: Medical Experts and Miraculous Evidence in Seventeenth-Century Italy”, in Renaissance Studies, 21/4 (2007), pp. 568-586 (also published in Sandra Cavallo and David Gentilcore, eds., Spaces, Objects and Identities in Early Modern Italian Medicine, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

“Praxis historialis: the uses of historia in early modern medicine” in Gianna Pomata and Nancy Siraisi, eds., Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT University Press, 2005, pp. 105-146.

“Medicina delle monache: pratiche terapeutiche nei monasteri femminili a Bologna in età moderna” in Gianna Pomata e Gabriella Zarri, eds., I monasteri femminili come centri di cultura fra Rinascimento e Barocco, Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005, pp. 329-363.

“Medicine for the poor: health care and poor relief in 18th and 19th- century Bologna”, in Andrew Cunningham and Ole Grell, eds., Health Care and Poor Relief in 18th and 19th century Southern Europe, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, pp. 229-243.

“Rejoinder to Pygmalion: the origins of women’s history at the London School of Economics” in History of Historiography, 46 (2004), pp. 79-104.

2002: “Gender and the Family” in Short Oxford History of Italy: Early Modern Italy 1550-1796, ed. John Marino, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 69-86.

“Knowledge-freshening Wind: Gender and the Renewal of Renaissance Studies”, in Allan Grieco and Michael Rocke, eds., The Italian Renaissance in the Twentieth Century, Florence: Olschki, 2002, pp. 173-192.

“Fatti: storie dell’evidenza empirica“ Quaderni Storici, 108, 3 (2001) (co-editor and co-author of Introduction with Simona Cerutti).

“A Christian Utopia of the Renaissance: Elena Duglioli’s Spiritual and Physical Motherhood (ca. 1510-1520) in Von der dargestellten Person zum erinnerten Ich: Europäische Selbstzeugnisse als historische Quellen (1500-1850), ed. Kaspar von Greyerz, Hans Medick, Patrice Veit, Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2001, pp. 323-353.

“Menstruating Men: Similarity and Difference of the Sexes in Early Modern Medicine” in Valeria Finucci and Kevin Brownlee, eds., Generation and Degeneration: Tropes of Reproduction in Literature and History from Antiquity to Early Modern Europe, Durham and London: Duke Univ. Press, 2001, pp. 109-152.

“Practicing Between Earth and Heaven: Women Healers in Early Modern Bologna” in Dynamis, 19 (1999), pp. 119-143 (also published in Spanish as “Entre el cielo y la tierra: las sanadoras en la Bolonia del siglo XVII” in Montserrat Cabré i Pairet and Teresa Ortiz Gómez, eds., Sanadoras, Matronas y Médicas en Europa, siglos XII-XX, Barcelona: Icaria, 2001).