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Definition of French disease

French disease: Syphilis. Depending upon someone's thoughts as to where the disease came from, syphilis was also known as the Italian, Spanish, German and Polish disease. The name "syphilis" was coined by Hieronymus Fracastorius (Girolamo Fracastoro). Fracastorius was a true Renaissance man; he wrote on the temperature of wines, the rise of the Nile, poetry, the mind, and the soul; he was an astronomer, geographer, botanist, mathematician, philosopher and, last but not least in the present context, a physician. In 1530 he published the poem "Syphilis sive morbus gallicus" (Syphilis or the French Disease) in which the name of the disease first appeared. Perhaps more importantly, Fracastorius went on in 1546 to write "On Contagion" ("De contagione et contagiosis morbis et curatione"), the first known discussion of the phenomenon of contagious infection: a landmark in the history of infectious disease.

Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25760
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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