Petrus de Abano (later anglicised to Peter of Abano) was born in 1257, in a small village situated approximately four miles away from Padua, in Italy. After studying in Paris, he gained doctorates in both philosophy and medicine, and was a renowned philosopher, mathematician, astrologer and physicist. Gabriel Naude, in his Antiquitate Scholæ Medicæ Parisiensis said he believed that his knowledge was "destined to free Italy from its barbarism and ignorance, as Camillus once freed Rome from the siege of the Gauls".

Perhaps his great life's work was the Conciliator differentiarum quae inter philosophos et medicos versantur (not published until 1472, approximately 150 years after his death), an attempt to create some crossover between the very opposite arts of physicians and philosophers. He has also been attributed with the previously unknown knowledge that air possesses weight, and it is said that he calculated of the length of the year to be three hundred and sixty-five days, six hours, and four minutes. He was one of the first writers to claim that the brain was the source of the nerves, and the heart the source of blood vessels.

Unfortunately for both Peter and his native Italy, during the height of the Inquisition, his knowledge of physics and philosophy was mistaken for witchcraft and magic, and he was incarcerated, and placed on trial. His captors charged him with false accusations, and made wild and unfounded claims about his practises and personal beliefs; mainly that with the aid of the devil, he recovered all the money he paid away, and that he possessed a philosopher's stone, which he used as the source of all his knowledge.

It was highly likely that he would have been found guilty of his non-existent crimes and burnt alive, had he survived his trial. In 1316 he died, aged sixty-six, alone in his cell. His apologists moved his body from location to location to save it from being burnt by his witch hunter captors. Its final resting place is St. Augustin's Church, where he was finally buried without a marker or epitaph.

Resources and bibliography

  • Petrus de Abano, or, Peter of Apona
  • Abano
  • Who's who of witches: Peter of Abano

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