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John M. Riddle

John M. Riddle (born 1937) is an Alumni Distinguished Professor emeritus of History at North Carolina State University and a specialist in the history of medicine.

Riddle specializes in pharmacological history particularly of the classical and medieval periods, based on previously under-utilized ancient and medieval sources. His methodology is to draw on the modern understanding of medicine, pharmacy, and chemistry to interpret texts and uncover the rationality of early medicine.[1] He is one of the foremost experts on Dioscorides.[2][3][4] He demonstrated, for instance, that Dioscorides arranged his presentation of drugs by affinities, based on their physiological action on the body. Thus, if a physician did not have a particular drug, he could look to the entry on the drug preceding or following.[5]

He is best known for advancing the view that women in classical antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period deliberately used herbal abortifacients as a means of fertility regulation.[6][7]

Riddle has accepted communications[clarification needed] in the International Congresses[8] of the International Society for the History of Medicine works. He was the former President of the Society for Ancient Medicine and the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy.


In 1987, Riddle was awarded the International Urdang Medal for Outstanding Writing in the History of Medicine and Pharmacy. In 1988, he was made a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University.

Published works

  • Marbode of Rennes' De Lapidibus: Considered as a Medical Treatise with Text, Commentary, and C.W. King's Translation, Together with Text and Translation of Marbode's Minor Works on Stones (Steiner,Sudhoffs Archiv, 1977)
  • Dioscorides on Pharmacy and Medicine (University of Texas press,1986)
  • Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992)
  • Quid pro quo: Studies in the History of Drugs (Aldershot: Variorum, 1992)
  • Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997)
  • A History of the Middle Ages, 300-1500 (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008)
  • Goddesses, Elixirs, and Witches: Plants and Sexuality Throughout Human History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
  • Dioscorides on Pharmacy and Medicine (University of Texas press, 2011)

External links


  1. ^ Alain Touwaide, introduction to Herbs and Healers from the Ancient Mediterranean through the Medieval West (Ashgate, 2012), p. 5.
  2. ^ Le Wall, Charles. The Curious Lore of Drugs and Medicines: Four Thousand Years of Pharmacy. (Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Co. Inc: 1927) and Riddle, John M.Dioscorides on pharmacy and medicine. (Austin: University of Texas Press,1985)
  3. ^ arker, Linette A. "A Brief History of Materia Medica," in The American Journal of Nursing, Vol.15, No. 9 (June 1915). pp 729-734 and Riddle, John M. Dioscorides on pharmacy and medicine. (Austin: University of Texas Press,1985)
  4. ^ Riddle, John M. (1984). "Dioscorides". In Cranz, F. Edward; Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Catalogus translationum et commentariorum : Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin translations and commentaries : annoted lists and guides. Washington, DC: Catholic Univ. of America Press. ISBN 0-8132-0547-6.
  5. ^ Karen Reeds, review in Isis 78/1 (1987): 85-8.
  6. ^ Riddle, John (1992). Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-16876-3. 
  7. ^ Van de Walle, Etienne (1997). "Flowers, fruits: two thousand years of menstrual regulation". Journal of Interdisciplinary History 28 (2): 182–203. doi:10.2307/206401. 
  8. ^ 1998 September 6–11, XXXVI Biennial International Congress for the History of Medicine Tunis, Carthage, Tunisia