In 1347, the Black Death first struck Europe. First sweeping through Asia and the Middle East, in just three short years it killed almost two thirds of Europe’s entire population.
On the Avignon papal throne was Clement VI, attributing the plague to divine wrath. Consulting the prominent academics of his time, papal physician Raimundo Chalmel de Vinario began a ground-breaking for the time epidemiological study.
“Born during the second quarter of the 14th century in Vinas, a village in Languedoc,
Raimondo studied medicine at the University of Montpellier. Here he remained to practice until relocating to papal Avignon. He became part of the popes’ staff, treating curial and other victims of several epidemics.”
From 1347 to 1382, 35 years in total, Raimundo studied four successive outbreaks of the plague. He found that mortality rates decreased and children were mainly affected – amongst other things – and compiled it into the treatise: On Epidemics.
“In the first outbreak, two thirds of the population contracted the illness and most patients died; in the next, half the population became ill but only some died; by the third, a tenth were affected and many survived; while by the fourth occurrence, only one in twenty people were sickened and most of them survived.”
During his nearly four decade study of the plague, he also found that bloodletting was an ineffective form of treatment.
Yet still, showing his anti-clerical colors he continued to prescribe bleeding to members of the Roman Curia, especially to those he disliked.
Furthermore, he claimed that that plague was actually of astrological origin and incurable.
What became of “Master Raymond,” as the Latin for his self-given title translates? Lost to history, perhaps purposefully, after 1382.