Francisco de Asis Flores y Troncoso and his Influence in the History of Medicine in Mexico

Department of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, UAEH, Pachuca, Hgo.

It is time that, from the extreme glaciers northern countries until the last towns of South America, young American physicians undertake to unearth from their antiquities and archives of the medical history of their country, searching the contemplation of beauty, the progress of arts and the glories of their races.
Francisco De Asís Flores y Troncoso1


In the nineteenth century; The Bronze Age, monumental works were produced and the national history was characterized by movements of many writers who were trying to span the general history of Mexico with different topics according to the trends of contemporary authors and events. However, there were individuals interested in preserving the historical records of their country from the perspective of their own field of study. For example, the extensive literary work; History of Medicine in Mexico: Since the days of native population until the present time written by Francisco de Asís Flores y Troncoso and printed in 1886; despite of its significance, this literary work has been largely unnoticed by historiography, however, it is an excellent reference for any student of history of medicine.

Keywords: history of medicine, positivism, francisco de asís flores y troncoso


Francisco de Asís Flores y Troncoso was born between 1852 and 1853 in Silao, Guanajuato, where he studied the Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science. Since his adolescence, he said "By reading the Ancient History of Mexico by Clavijero, I decided to study everything about Mexican Natives, including their language”[2]. After finishing his studies, Francisco de  Asis studied the Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine from 1872 to 1875, in which he always stood out; however, the circumstances in his family made him to move to Mexico City in 1877, where he continued and concluded his studies from 1878 to 1882; he learned from renowned doctors of that time, such as Francisco Ortega, Lucio Lavista, Eduardo Liceaga and Carmona y Valle, to name a few. Besides his medical studies, Asis enjoyed writing and it was the reason he worked in scientific and political works in some newspapers such as El Siglo XIX and El Diario del Hogar and Combate. In addition, Asis  may have been influenced by his cousin Manuel Acuña to write poetry.  After working as a Physician for a short period, and when he finished his studies, he worked as the Head of the Elementary Schools in Tepic and as the State Deputy of Puebla in 1897. He implemented The Decimal Bibliographical System in ministries and state sources, and the use of letter size paper in all government departments. He died in Mexico  City in 1931[3].

According to records from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, different considerations of medicine were recorded including the Asis´ literary work  which is considered the first complete History of Medicine in Mexico and also the first work in Mexico following the doctrine of positivism of Auguste Comte. This voluminous text was used as a resource; and because of its relevance was edited by the Ministry of Development. Porfirio Parra wrote the general preface in which he highlighted the importance of this work in the "scientific literature". In fact, Parra took into account the histories of medicine as valuable bibliographic monuments; and no one can pride himself to be an erudite person in Medicine, if he does not have even a general idea about this science during other times, or even if he knows the current aspects of the medical field; in other words, if he ignores the History of Medicine. Moreover, Francisco Flores said “just because we wanted to unearth from the dust of forgetfulness of our ancestors, which all of us had ignored, but now it is worthy of recognition everywhere, desiring that Mexico had its own history and Europe knew the history of one of the most advanced nations in America” [4].

The structure of each volume of this work is: The First Period: The Theological Stage of Medicine in Mexico. The Second Period: The Metaphysical Stage of Medicine in Mexico. The Third Period: The Positivist Stage of Medicine in Mexico. Each volume has an introduction and a conclusion, and they are divided into “parts” which have chapters. The discussion regarded throughout the whole work is the theory of the three stages of Augusto Comte, each volume regarding one stage, highlighting the positivist stage (the most extensive of the three volumes). Flores mentioned  “regarding the first volume about medicine; it is duty from the State to keep among the early population of Anáhuac, this stage in which there is a lot of fables, superstition and theogony from early times. The second volume covers the three centuries of domination and the independence early years since white people dominated Indian People, and since the Aztec civilization, teaching and traditions were replaced by the Spanish ones, dominating all of the metaphysical and the scholastic logic. And the last volume "starts from the creation of the first campus of medical sciences, which came to modify radically studies and exercise of arts, and to replace late and rote learning and positivist principle, which regards the present time”[5]

This is precisely the discourse that is maintained throughout the three volumes, medicine in Mexico had gone through three different stages, but the most recent volume always getting better results than the previous one, but at the same time it was based on it that could not be omitted. Due to the fact it was necessary to start from the beginning and go through their development, the transition carried out to the following stage was a visible advance in the development of medicine in Mexico.

Francisco de Asis Flores was the result of the historical movement of that time; similar to his contemporaries, he was dedicated to promoting progress in science and medicine, mostly during the Diaz term, while attempting to contribute to the preparation of a national consciousness through a history, which he called "medical homeland", in which he was so convinced it would be useful to strengthen the identity of the Mexican people as an essential element if they wanted to consolidate the nation.

From the perspective of the early twenty-first century, the History of Medicine in Mexico can be an extremely questionable text by the philosophy field because of the lack of methodological accuracy or due to the inaccuracy of some of the records which were ignored for decades and were undoubtedly the only documents which could be set to go for historical data on medicine in Mexico. It was necessary for the medical history works to become important, especially after the end of the Mexican revolution; so the literary work of Francisco Flores would be remained, even if this work is still recognized  as a fundamental reference.


[1] Francisco de Asís Flores y Troncoso, Historia de la Medicina en México. Desde la época de los indios hasta el presente, III tomos, pról. De Porfirio Parra, México, Oficina tipográfica de la Secretaría de Fomento, 1886, tomo I, p. Xl.

[2] Germán Somolinos D´Ardois, Historia y Medicina. Figuras y hechos de la Historiografía médica mexicana, México, Imprenta Universitaria, 1957, 160 pp., ils., (Cultura Mexicana, 18), p. 89.

[3] Diccionario Porrúa. Historia, biografía y geografía de México, México, editorial Porrúa, 6ª edición, 1995, vol, 2, pp. 1316-1317.

[4] Porfirio Parra, “Prólogo” en Flores y Troncoso, Francisco, op. cit., p. LIX.

[5] Ibid., p. XLIII.


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