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Paracelsus

physician medical disease basle

( Lat ), Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim ( Ger ) (1493–1541) Swiss alchemist and physician: pioneer of medical chemistry.

Paracelsus’s father was a physician working near Zürich, who gave his son his early medical training. The young man travelled widely before settling in Strasbourg. There he achieved cures for some influential people and as a result was appointed City Physician in Basle. In lectures and books he pressed the view that alchemy should be directed not only to transmuting base metal into gold, but principally to preparing effective medicines. His ideas found support, but he used such offensive language in abusing opponents that, following a legal case which he lost, he had to leave Basle, and he died in Salzburg. He was certainly a loud-mouthed and often drunk and boastful mystic; but he probably did much to deflect alchemy towards improving medical chemistry.

His theoretical ideas were too clouded in mysticism to be useful, but in practical medicine he was more effective. He was one of the first to study occupational diseases and he recognized silicosis as a hazard for miners. He realized that goitre and cretinism are related; and he used morphine, sulphur and lead in medicine, and mercury, with which he treated the then new disease syphilis. He gave good descriptions of several types of mental disease, which he saw as an illness and not as due simply to demons. However, he firmly claimed that it is possible to create human life in the laboratory and gave full experimental detail on how to achieve this, starting with the fermentation of a sample of semen.

Paracelsus (1493–1541) - BIOGRAPHY, MAJOR WORKS AND THEMES, CRITICAL RECEPTION [next] [back] Paquin

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