Bartolomé de Medina

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Bartolomé de Medina (1527-1580), Spanish theologian and mining specialist, was born in Medina de Rioseco, Spain in 1527. A member of the Dominican Order and a student of Francisco de Vitoria, he was professor of theology at the University of Salamanca and a member of the School of Salamanca. He is best known as the originator of the doctrine of probabilism in moral theology, which holds that one may follow a course of action that has some probability, even if the opposite is more probable. He died at Salamanca in 1581.

A completely different person—though even confused by Enc.Brit. 2010 s.v. Bartolomé de Medina—is another Bartolomé de Medina, businessman of Sevilla, who learned from a certain German Leonard the use of mercury and hereby improved the process of amalgamization of silver with mercury while mining in Mexico (1554?/1557?), especially in Pachuca de Soto (50 miles north of Mexico City), hereby revolutionizing the extraction of silver for more than two and a half centuries. This "dry" method of amalgamating mercury and silver, the so-called "patio process", seems partly have been in use by the native Indians too. It avoided—due to the circumstances in the tree- and waterless highlands—the large quantities of wood and water which were necessary and in great quantities available in Europe.


  • Article on Bartholomé de Medina in Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)
  • J. Franklin, The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 74-76.