|Garcis de Orta, physician of Goa.israelstamps.com|
Garcia de Orta was born in Castelo de Vide, presumably in 1501, the son of Fernão (Isaac) da Orta, a merchant, and Leonor Gomes. Educated at the Universities of Alcalá de Henares and Salamanca in Spain, Garcia returned to Portugal in 1525 to avoid religious persecution. That time Spanish inquisition was on and he was forced to become a Christian in 1497. After established as a good physician in his home town and later in Lisbon, he ultimately became a Physician to the Portugal king John III. Fearing forceful implementation of Portugal inquisition and the ban on emigration of New Christians, Garcia sailed for Portuguese India in March 1534. He settled in Goa in September in the same year and began his practice as a physican and got a name for his healing power. He became a physician to the Viceroys, Governors of Goa and a personal physician to Burhan Nizam Shah I of the Nizam Shahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar. As for his personal life, Garcia de Orta's marriage with his wealthy cousin Brianda de Solis, in 1543 was not a smooth one and was on the rock though the couple had two daughters.
Unlike early pioneers in this field, he was a maverick and relied his studies more on the experimental approach to the identification and use of herbal medicines rather than the traditional approach of using available knowledge then. It was quite useful to his contemporaries who understood the basics of tropical plants and their medicinal qualities.
He is famous for this elaborate work Coloquios dos simples e drogas e cousas medicinais da India published in 1565 by him in a unique style in the form of a dialogue between him and a hypothetical Dr. Ruano who is new to the tropics of India.(Conversations on the simples, drugs and materia medica of India), His magnum opus is said to be the earliest treatise on the medicinal and economic plants of India. One Carolus Clusius translated it into Latin which was widely used as a standard reference text on medicinal plants. Clusius was the one who understood the greatness of this painstaking work of Gracia. He provided an important practical frame work for the practitioners of tropical diseases that affected people in thousands. Besides, the book is said to be the first famous non-religious book printed in Asia. (For details read: https://archive.org/details/colloquiesonsimp00orta) The earlier ones were religious in nature. He wrote many books on tropical medicine and plants, but, none survived due to Goa Inquisition except the a fore-mentioned work.
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Garcia de Orta died in 1568 before the Goa inquisition (introduced in Goa in 1565) was put into serious action in 1569. In the same year, his sister was burnt at the stake for being a secret Jew and based on her confession Garcia's mortal remains were later exhumed by the religious fanatics and burnt along with an effigy. There are memorials recognizing his outstanding contributions in Tropical medicine built both in Portugal and India.
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Above image: Statue of Garcia de Orta by Martins Correia at the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Lisbon.
01. About the medicinal qualities of Cashews De Orta is of the view that cashews are placed in sour milk and this remedy helps people with asthma or worms. He covers a variety of plants, shrubs, etc., and their medicinal benefits.
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02. Jardim Garcia de Orta is a small, well kept garden in Panaji, Goa just off Church Square in memory of the 16th century Portuguese physician In the garden, there is a column twelve and half meter tall with the national emblem of 4 lions that was built in 1968 replacing the bust of de Gama atop the column. The governments - both state and central took serious steps and in 2010 redeveloped the old garden that was laid in 1855.
03. During the Portuguese rule the site - Island of Bombay was taken on lease by Garcia de Orta from the King of Portugal between 1554 and 1570. The islands of Bombay came under the control of the English in 1665. He resided in The Manor. On this site, the British built the Bombay castle and fortified it.
04. It is to be noted that De Orta undertook the study of tropical plants and their health benefits long before the British had settled down in India under the British Crown.
05. De Orta was the first European to describe some dreaded Asiatic diseases like Cholera. He also performed an autopsy on the Cholera victim, first recorded in the Indian medical history.
06. Many of his studies in medicine were based on the Indian system of Ayuveda and also Unnani. Both of them rely heavely on herbs and plants.
07. De Orta traveled to Srilanka - Jaffna (once a Portuguese Colony) and studied certain plants used to treat snake-bites. He also studied the plant there called Dattur used by the thives to poison their victims. Such plants had forensic value.