Bernard of Gordon


Bernard was from a noble family in Gordon, France. He was a physician who studied and taught at the University of Montpellier, France around 1308. His interpretations and translations of classical works shaped the medical curriculum at Montpellier. He completed his best-known work, Lily of Medicine (Lilium Medicinae) in 1305, an encyclopedia of diseases with their symptoms, causes, effects, and treatments. Bernard subscribed to theories of his predecessors Galen and Avicenna.

Bernard's Lily of Medicine contained a classification of the symptoms of speech disorders. He divided "injured speech" into (1) mutes, (2) those who express a concept with difficulty, (3) those who corrupt letters (4) those who cannot say the letter s and (5) those who corrupt break words apart (Wollock, 1997, p. 365-366).

In his Lily of Medicine, Bernard theorized on voice production, implicating expired air, the movement of the pectoral muscles, the dilation and contraction of the larynx, and organs of articulation, including the tongue, palate, lips and teeth. He hypothesized, further that the uvula played a key role in vocalization. O'Neill has argued that Bernard may have been confusing the uvula with the epiglottis (O'Neill, 1980, p. 161). Finally, Bernard indicated the importance of thought in the production of the voice.

Bernard subscribed to humor theory when accounting for why people had speech problems. He maintained that an excess of moisture caused articulation problems, resulting from too much moisture blowing from the brain that, in turn, obstructed the lingual nerves (O'Neill, 1980, p. 163).

Lily of Medicine was circulated widely and translated from the original Latin into French, Hebrew, Irish and Spanish (not English). It became an authoritative text and was cited for three centuries. Bernard also explored and wrote about other fields that were important at the time, such as medical astronomy and astrology.

Writings about Bernard of Gordon

Demaitre, Luke, E. (1980) Doctor Bernard de Gordon: professor and practitioner. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.

O'Neill, Y. (1980). Speech and speech disorders in Western thought (pp. 160-163). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Wollock, J. (1997). The noblest animate motion: Speech, physiology and medicine in pre-Cartesian linguistic thought. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co.