From Academic Kids
Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 in Anazarbus, Cilicia - c. 90) was an ancient Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist who practised in Rome at the times of Nero. He was a surgeon with the army of the emperor so he had the opportunity to travel extensively seeking medicinal substances from all over the Roman and Greek world.
Dioscorides is famous for writing a five volume book De Materia Medica that is a precursor to all modern pharmacopeias, and is one of the most influential herbal books in history. In fact it remained in use until about CE 1600. Unlike many classical authors, his works were not "rediscovered" in the Renaissance, because his book never left circulation. The Materia Medica was often reproduced in manuscript form through the centuries, often with commentary on Dioscorides' work and with minor additions from Arabian and Indian sources, though there were some advancements in herbal science among the Arabic additions.
The Materia Medica is important not just for the history of herbal science, it also gives us a knowledge of the herbs and remedies used by the Greeks, Romans, and other cultures of antiquity. The work also records the Dacian and Thracian names for some plants, which otherwise would have been lost.
A number of illustrated manuscripts of the Materia Medica survive, some of them from as early as the 5th through 7th centuries. The most famous of these early copies is the Vienna Dioscurides (512/513).
- German translation of Materia Medica, 1902 (http://www.tiscalinet.ch/materiamedica)
- Plates showing many pages from an original illuminated Greek manuscript of the Materia Medica (http://www.bnnonline.it/biblvir/dioscoride/index.htm)