De Castro Family (Sephardi Jewish) - Rodrigo de Castro (also David Namias)

Rodrigo De Castro (also David Namias)

Physician, born 1550 at Lisbon, died at Hamburg, date disputed but probably 1 February 1627

Castro studied medicine at Évora and Salamanca and, after receiving there the degrees of doctor of philosophy and of medicine, he practised at Lisbon. Philip II requested him on the completion of his studies to make a journey to East India for the purpose of collecting medicinal herbs and studying them scientifically, but the request was refused.

In order to escape the persecutions of the Inquisition, Castro settled in Antwerp with his wife, Katharina Rodriguez and their two children. Here, by effecting some fortunate cures, he soon won high esteem, but when the Spanish re-established themselves in The Netherlands, considering himself insecure, he left Antwerp, probably living in northern Holland for several years until his countryman and colleague, possibly also relative, Henrico Rodriguez, induced him to make Hamburg his permanent home (1592).

When the plague broke out in that city in 1596, Castro distinguished himself by self-sacrificing devotion. He wrote a treatise on the plague and dedicated it to the Senate of Hamburg. Though he did not hold the office of "Medico del Senado" or city physician, as Daniel Levi de Barrios states in his "Relacion de los Poetas y Escritores Españoles", p. 55, he was a very popular and active physician and was frequently summoned by the magnates of neighboring countries, among whom were king Frederick II of Denmark, the landgrave of Hesse, the duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and John Adolf, duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp (1590–1616) and in personal union administrator of the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen (1589–1596).

During Castro's first years in Hamburg he did not avow himself a Jew, but the first list of Portuguese Jews published in the city council makes mention of Dr. Rodrigo de Castro "together with his wife, two full-grown sons, and other small children." After the death of his wife (1603) who, since there was no Jewish cemetery in Hamburg-Altona, was buried either in the Christian cemetery or in the place obtained by Castro "within the pale of the Church", he married again. For almost fifty years, thirty-five of which were spent at Hamburg, he acted as the friend and helper of suffering humanity, being styled "master of his art", "famous physician", and "prince of medicine of his time." He was buried in the cemetery of the Jewish-Portuguese congregation at Altona.

The following works of Rodrigo de Castro appeared in print.

In Latin

  • "Tractatus Brevis de Natura et Causis Pestis Quæ Hoc Anno 1596 Hamburgensem Civitatem Afflixit", Hamburg, 1596
  • "De Universa Mulierum Morborum Medicina", ib. 1603 (1604), 1628, 1664, Venice 1644, Hanover 1654, Cologne 1689, Frankfurt 1668
  • "Medicus Politicus, sive de Officiis Medico-Politicis Tractatus", a kind of medical encyclopedia and methodology, Hamburg, 1614, 1662

In Portuguese

  • "Tratado de Herem, Em o Qual a Serca Desta Materia", etc., cited also under the title "Trattado da Halissa, En o Qual Sen a Desta Materia Dialogi xxv." 1614

Several members of his family were physicians of some repute, his uncle Emmanuel Vaëz having attended four kings of Portugal.

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