September 24, 2008
By Pillarisetti Sudhir
Nancy G. Siraisi, emeritus professor of history at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, and a member of the AHA, was among the recipients of the 25 fellowships awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which were announced on September 23, 2008. Siraisi, who received the 2005 AHA Award for Scholarly Distinction, is a noted historian of medicine and science during the Renaissance and in the medieval world.
A graduate of Oxford University, Siraisi received her PhD from CUNY’s Graduate Center, and taught at Hunter College from 1970 until her retirement as distinguished professor in 2003. A pioneer in the then nascent fields of the history of medicine and science, Siraisi helped to create a body of knowledge about them through meticulous and extensive research in the Italian and other archives. As the citation for the AHA’s Award for Scholarly Distinction phrased it, “In her practice of intellectual history Nancy Siraisi attends not only to texts and textual traditions, but also to individual lives and daily practices, institutional settings and social relations, disciplinary distinctions and literary genres.” A prolific author of several pathbreaking books—Taddeo Alderotti and His Pupils: Two Generations of Italian Medical Learning (Princeton Univ. Press, 1981), Avicenna in Renaissance Italy: The Canon and Medical Teaching of Italian Universities after 1500 (Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), and The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance Medicine (Princeton Univ. Press, 1997)—Siraisi is also justly famous for her widely read textbook, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990).
But the $500,000 MacArthur fellowshipsare not awarded to recognize past achievements. They are intended to “enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.” In offering our congratulations to AHA member Nancy Siraisi for her latest distinction, we will also look forward, therefore, to her continuing to shed—in the years to come—new light on an old (and often opaque) medieval world.