(born circa 1478, Verona, Republic of Venice—died Aug. 8, 1553, Caffi, near Verona) Italian physician, poet, astronomer, and geologist. He is best known for Syphilis, or the French Disease (1530), an account in rhyme of the disease he named. His intense study of epidemic diseases led to his On Contagion and Contagious Diseases (1546). The first scientific statement of the true nature of contagion, infection, disease germs, and modes of disease transmission, it stated that each disease is caused by a different type of rapidly multiplying minute body, transmitted by direct contact, by carriers such as soiled clothing or through the air. Widely praised in his time, Fracastoro's theory, soon obscured by the mystical doctrines of Paracelsus, fell into general disrepute until Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch proved it 300 years later.
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Born of an ancient family in Verona, and educated at Padua where at 19 he was appointed professor at the University. On account of his eminence in the practice of medicine, he was elected physician of the Council of Trent. A bronze statue was erected in his honor by the citizens of Padua, while his native city commemorated their great compatriot by a marble statue. He lived and practised in his hometown. In 1546 he proposed that epidemic diseases are caused by transferable tiny particles or "spores" that could transmit infection by direct or indirect contact or even without contact over long distances. In his writing, the "spores" of disease may refer to chemicals rather than to any living entities.
"I call fomites [from the Latin fomes, meaning "tinder"] such things as clothes, linen, etc., which although not themselves corrupt, can nevertheless foster the essential seeds of the contagion and thus cause infection.
His theory remained influential for nearly three centuries, before being displaced by germ theory.
The name for syphilis is derived from Fracastoro's 1530 epic poem in three books, Syphilis sive morbus gallicus ("Syphilis or The French Disease"), about a shepherd named Syphilus. The poem suggests using mercury and "guaiaco" as a cure. His 1546 book (De contagione -- "On Contagion") also gave the first description for typhus. The collected works of Fracastoro appeared for the first time in 1555.