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Eamon: NMSU's Renaissance man

Date: 12/14/2010

William Eamon always has been surrounded by science. Early on, both his parents and grandfather instilled such intrigue and awe in the field that three of the four Eamon children would grow up to be scientists. However, for the one that would not, the influence would take a different form.

William Eamon

As an undergraduate at the University of Montana, Eamon uncovered that his deep appreciation for the sciences was better expressed in the humanities. When he was introduced to the field of the history of science as a senior, he knew he had found his calling.

Today, Eamon, who is the dean of the Honors College at New Mexico State University and Regents professor of history, focuses his research on the area of Renaissance medicine, concentrating on the history of science and medicine in Italy and Spain.

"My research path has been looking at the history of sciences from the margins-the marginalized figures and the kinds of sciences that got lost-but that at one time were cutting edge disciplines," Eamon said.

The margins Eamon refers to are topics such as magic, alchemy, charlatans, sorcerers and plagues. The figures include Leonardo Fioravanti, the subject of his most recent book, "The Professor of Secrets," which takes place during the sixteenth century and focuses on Fioravanti, who was very famous for a brief period of time before becoming a forgotten piece of history-that is, until Eamon heard of the daring military surgeon while on a research trip to Italy.

Eamon was so intrigued by this character and determined to uncover his story that he spent seven years retracing his steps through Italian cities such as Venice, Florence and Naples, and the Spanish town of Simancas.

"My book raises the question about whether he was a charlatan, why people were called charlatan and what is a charlatan," said Eamon. "I felt he deserved a study of his own," Eamon said.

To hear more from Eamon on his book and research, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA9962P6Hlk.

Written by Leah Messina.

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