Pietro d’Abano, also known as Peter of Abano, Petrus de Apono, and Petrus Aponensis, was born in the village of Abano near Padua in northern Italy about 1250. Not much is known concerning his family background or early years. His father was a public notary and seems to have been reasonably well-to-do, for Pietro was able to receive an unusually good education. As a youth, he went to Greece and Constantinople, where he gained a mastery of the Greek language; among his early writings are translations of works of Aristotle into Latin. The ability to read the Greek classics in the original was quite unusual in Western Europe before the invading Ottoman Turks began to force Greek scholars to flee westward from the collapsing Byzantine Empire in the mid-fifteenth century.
Upon his return from Constantinople, Pietro attended the University of Paris, perhaps the best of the few institutions of higher learning that existed in late thirteenth century Europe. He studied philosophy, mathematics, and medicine for a number of years and earned a doctorate. Pietro’s fame as a scholar and teacher quickly spread, and he became known as “the great Lombard.”