|Intro||Swiss physician and alchemist|
|A.K.A.||Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, Philip von Ho...|
|Was||Religious scholar Physician Astrologer Astronomer Theologian|
|Field||Healthcare Religion Science|
|Birth||10 November 1493, Egg SZ|
|Death||24 September 1541, Salzburg (aged 47 years)|
Paracelsus (/ˌpærəˈsɛlsəs/; late 1493 – September 24, 1541), born Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, was a Swiss German philosopher, physician, botanist, astrologer, and general occultist. He is credited as the founder of toxicology. He is also a famous revolutionary for utilizing observations of nature, rather than referring to ancient texts, something of radical defiance during his time. He is credited for giving zinc its name, calling it zincum. Modern psychology often also credits him for being the first to note that some diseases are rooted in psychological conditions.
Paracelsus' most important legacy is likely his critique of the scholastic methods in medicine, science and theology. Much of his theoretical work does not withstand modern scientific thought, but his insights laid the foundation for a more dynamic approach in the medical sciences.
Paracelsus was born and raised in the village of Einsiedeln in Switzerland. His father, Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim, was a Swabian (German) chemist and physician. His mother was Swiss and probably a bondswoman of the abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland where he was born; she presumably died in his childhood. In 1502 the family moved to Villach, Carinthia where Paracelsus' father worked as a physician, attending to the medical needs of the pilgrims and inhabitants of the cloister.
Paracelsus was educated by his father in botany, medicine, mineralogy, mining, and natural philosophy. He also received a profound humanistic and theological education from local clerics and the convent school of St. Paul's Abbey in the Lavanttal. He specifically accounts for being tutored by Johannes Trithemius, abbot of Sponheim. At the age of 16 he started studying medicine at the University of Basel, later moving to Vienna. He gained his doctorate degree from the University of Ferrara in 1515 or 1516.
He was employed as a military surgeon in the Venetian service in 1522. Paracelsus appears to have been very well traveled, so it is probable that he was involved in the many wars waged between 1517 and 1524 in Holland, Scandinavia, Prussia, Tartary, the countries under Venetian influence, and possibly the near East. His wanderings as an itinerant physician and sometime journeyman miner took him through Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Russia.
Paracelsus was well known as a difficult man. He gained a reputation for being arrogant and soon garnered the anger of other physicians in Europe. Some even claim he was a habitual drinker. He was prone to many outbursts of abusive language, abhorred untested theory, and ridiculed anybody who placed more importance on titles than practice ('if disease put us to the test, all our splendor, title, ring, and name will be as much help as a horse's tail'). During his time as a professor at University of Basel, he invited barber-surgeons, alchemists, apothecaries, and others lacking academic background to serve as examples of his belief that only those who practiced an art knew it: 'The patients are your textbook, the sickbed is your study.' He held the chair of medicine at the University of Basel and city physician for less than a year. He angered his colleagues by lecturing in German instead of Latin in order to make medical knowledge more accessible to the common people. He is credited as the first to do so. He was the first to publicly condemn the medical authority of Avicenna and Galen and threw their writings into a bonfire on St. John's Day in 1527.
In 1526 he bought the rights of citizenship in Strasbourg to establish his own practice. But soon after he was called to Basel to the sickbed of Johann Froben or Frobenius, a successful printer and publisher. Based on historical accounts, Paracelsus cured Frobenius. During that time, the Dutch Renaissance humanist Erasmus von Rotterdam, also at the University of Basel, witnessed the medical skills of Paracelsus, and the two scholars initiated a letter dialogue on medical and theological subjects.
He was a contemporary of Copernicus, Leonardo da Vinci and Martin Luther. During his life, he was compared with Luther partly because his ideas were different from the mainstream and partly because of openly defiant acts against the existing authorities in medicine, such as his public burning of ancient books. This act struck people as similar to Luther's defiance against the Church. Paracelsus rejected that comparison. Famously Paracelsus said, "I leave it to Luther to defend what he says and I will be responsible for what I say. That which you wish to Luther, you wish also to me: You wish us both in the fire."
After slandering his opponents with vicious epithets due to a dispute over a physician's fee, Paracelsus had to leave Basel secretly fearing punishment by the court. He became a tramp, wandering through Central Europe again. Around 1529, he officially adopted the name Paracelsus which is presumed to mean 'surpassing Celsus", the Roman writer. In 1530, at the instigation of the medical faculty at the University of Leipzig, the city council of Nürnberg prohibited the printing of Paracelsus' works. He revised old manuscripts and wrote new ones but had trouble finding publishers. In 1536, his Die grosse Wundartznei ("The Great Surgery Book") was published and enabled him to regain fame.
He died at the age of 47 in Salzburg, and his remains were buried according to his wishes in the cemetery at the church of St. Sebastian in Salzburg. His remains are now located in a tomb in the porch of that church. After his death, the movement of Paracelsianism was seized upon by many wishing to subvert the traditional Galenic physics, and his therapies became more widely known and used. Most of Paracelsus' writings were published after his death and still much controversy prevailed. He was accused of leading "a legion of homicide physicians" and his books were called "heretical and scandalous". However, after many decades in 1618, a new pharmacopeia by the Royal College of Physicians in London included paracelsian remedies.
His motto was "Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "Let no man belong to another who can belong to himself."
As a physician of the early 16th century, Paracelsus held a natural affinity with the Hermetic, Neoplatonic, and Pythagorean philosophies central to the Renaissance, a world-view exemplified by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. Paracelsus rejected the magic theories of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Nicolas Flamel in his Archidoxes of Magic. Astrology was a very important part of Paracelsus' medicine and he was a practicing astrologer – as were many of the university-trained physicians working at that time in Europe. Paracelsus devoted several sections in his writings to the construction of astrological talismans for curing disease. He also invented an alphabet called the Alphabet of the Magi, for engraving angelic names upon talismans. Paracelsus largely rejected the philosophies of Aristotle and Galen, as well as the theory of humors. Although he did accept the concept of the four elements as water, air, fire, and earth, he saw them merely as a foundation for other properties on which to build.
Contributions to medicine
Paracelsus was one of the first medical professors to recognize that physicians required a solid academic knowledge in the natural sciences, especially chemistry. Paracelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. From his study of the elements, Paracelsus adopted the idea of tripartite alternatives to explain the nature of medicine, taking the place of a combustible element (sulphur), a fluid and changeable element (mercury), and a solid, permanent element (salt.) The first mention of the mercury, sulphur, salt model was in the Opus paramirum dating to about 1530 Paracelsus believed that the principles sulphur, mercury, and salt contained the poisons contributing to all diseases. He saw each disease as having three separate cures depending on how it was afflicted, either being caused by the poisoning of sulphur, mercury, or salt. Paracelsus drew the importance of sulphur, salt and mercury from medieval alchemy, where they all occupied a prominent place. He demonstrated his theory by burning a piece of wood. The fire was the work of sulphur, the smoke was mercury, and the residual ash was salt. Paracelsus also believed that mercury, sulphur, and salt provided a good explanation for the nature of medicine because each of these properties existed in many physical forms. The tria prima also defined the human identity. Sulfur embodied the soul, (the emotions and desires); salt represented the body; mercury epitomised the spirit (imagination, moral judgment, and the higher mental faculties). By understanding the chemical nature of the tria prima, a physician could discover the means of curing disease. With every disease, the symptoms depended on which of the three principals caused the ailment. Paracelsus theorized that materials which are poisonous in large doses may be curative in small doses; he demonstrated this with the examples of magnetism and static electricity, wherein a small magnet can attract much larger metals.
He used the name "zink" for the element zinc in about 1526, based on the sharp pointed appearance of its crystals after smelting ("zinke" translating to "pointed" in German). Paracelsus invented chemical therapy, chemical urinalysis, and suggested a biochemical theory of digestion. Paracelsus used chemistry and chemical analogies in his teachings to medical students and to the medical establishment, many of whom found them objectionable.
Paracelsus in the beginning of the sixteenth century had unknowingly observed hydrogen as he noted that in reaction when acids attack metals, gas was a by-product. Later, Théodore de Mayerne repeated Paracelsus’s experiment in 1650 and found that the gas was flammable. However neither Paracelsus nor de Mayerne proposed that hydrogen could be a new element.
His hermetical views were that sickness and health in the body relied on the harmony of Man (microcosm) and Nature (macrocosm). He took a different approach from those before him, using this analogy not in the manner of soul-purification but in the manner that humans must have certain balances of minerals in their bodies, and that certain illnesses of the body had chemical remedies that could cure them. As a result of this hermetical idea of harmony, the universe's macrocosm was represented in every person as a microcosm. An example of this correspondence is the doctrine of signatures used to identify curative powers of plants. If a plant looked like a part of the body, then this signified its ability to cure this given anatomy. Therefore, the root of the orchid looks like a testicle and can therefore heal any testicle associated illness. Paracelsus mobilized the microcosm-macrocosm theory to demonstrate the analogy between the aspirations to salvation and health. As humans must ward off the influence of evil spirits with morality, they also must ward off diseases with good health.
Paracelsus believed that true anatomy could only be understood once the nourishment for each part of the body was discovered. He believed that therefore, one must know the influence of the stars on these particular body parts. Diseases were caused by poisons brought from the stars. However, 'poisons' were not necessarily something negative, in part because related substances interacted, but also because only the dose determined if a substance was poisonous or not. Paracelsus claimed the complete opposite of Galen, in that like cures like. If a star or poison caused a disease, then it must be countered by another star or poison. Because everything in the universe was interrelated, beneficial medical substances could be found in herbs, minerals and various chemical combinations thereof. Paracelsus viewed the universe as one coherent organism pervaded by a uniting lifegiving spirit, and this in its entirety, Man included, was 'God'. His views put him at odds with the Church, for which there necessarily had to be a difference between the Creator and the created.
Discoveries and treatments
It is said that Paracelsus was also responsible for the creation of laudanum, an opium tincture very common until the 19th century. Although it is not historically proven that he was the first to apply laudanum, an analgesic opium preparation, he first encountered this drug on an also speculative visit to Constantinople.
His work Die große Wundarzney is a forerunner of antisepsis. This specific empirical knowledge originated from his personal experiences as an army physician in the Venetian wars. Paracelsus demanded that the application of cow dung, feathers and other obnoxious concoctions to wounds be surrendered in favor of keeping the wounds clean, stating, "If you prevent infection, Nature will heal the wound all by herself." During his time as a military surgeon, Paracelsus was exposed to the crudity of medical knowledge at the time, when doctors believed that infection was a natural part of the healing process. He advocated for cleanliness and protection of wounds, as well as the regulation of diet. Popular ideas of the time opposed these theories and suggested sewing or plastering wounds Historians of syphilitic disease credit Paracelsus with the recognition of the inherited character of syphilis. In his first medical publication, a short pamphlet of syphilis treatment that was also the most comprehensive clinical description the period ever produced, he wrote a clinical description of syphilis in which he maintained that it could be treated by carefully measured doses of mercury. Similarly, he was the first to discover that the disease could only be contracted by contact.
Hippocrates put forward the theory that illness was caused by an imbalance of the four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. These ideas were further developed by Galen into an extremely influential and highly persistent set of medical beliefs that were to last until the mid-1850s. Contrarily, Paracelsus believed in three humors: salt (representing stability), sulfur (representing combustibility), and mercury (representing liquidity); he defined disease as a separation of one humor from the other two. He believed that body organs functioned alchemically, that is, they separated pure from impure. The dominant medical treatments in Paracelsus' time were specific diets to help in the "cleansing of the putrefied juices" combined with purging and bloodletting to restore the balance of the four humors. Paracelsus supplemented and challenged this view with his beliefs that illness was the result of the body being attacked by outside agents. He objected to excessive bloodletting, saying that the process disturbed the harmony of the system, and that blood could not be purified by lessening its quantity.
Paracelsus gave birth to clinical diagnosis and the administration of highly specific medicines. This was uncommon for a period heavily exposed to cure-all remedies. The Germ Theory was anticipated by him as he proposed that diseases were entities in themselves, rather than states of being. Paracelsus first introduced the black hellebore to European pharmacology and prescribed the correct dosage to alleviate certain forms of arteriosclerosis. Lastly, he recommended the use of iron for 'poor blood' and is credited with the creation of the terms, 'chemistry,' 'gas,' and 'alcohol'
One of his most overlooked achievements was the systematic study of minerals and the curative powers of alpine mineral springs. His countless wanderings also brought him deep into many areas of the Alps, where such therapies were already practiced on a less common scale than today. Paracelsus' major work On the Miners' Sickness and Other Diseases of Miners documented the occupational hazards of metalworking including treatment and prevention strategies.
Contributions to toxicology
Paracelsus extended his interest in chemistry and biology to what is now considered toxicology. He clearly expounded the concept of dose response in his Third Defense, where he stated that “Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison.” This was used to defend his use of inorganic substances in medicine as outsiders frequently criticized Paracelsus' chemical agents as too toxic to be used as therapeutic agents.
Paracelsus was attributed this quote:
Sola dosis facit venenum.
(German: "Die Dosis macht das Gift.") -
The dose makes the poison.
That is to say, substances considered toxic are harmless in small doses, and conversely an ordinarily harmless substance can be deadly if over-consumed. His belief that diseases locate in a specific organ was extended to inclusion of target organ toxicity; that is, there is a specific site in the body where a chemical will exert its greatest effect. Paracelsus also encouraged using experimental animals to study both beneficial and toxic chemical effects.
Contributions to psychotherapy
Paracelsus is credited as providing the first clinical/scientific mention of the unconscious. In his work Von den Krankeiten he writes: "Thus, the cause of the disease chorea lasciva is a mere opinion and idea, assumed by imagination, affecting those who believe in such a thing. This opinion and idea are the origin of the disease both in children and adults. In children the case is also imagination, based not on thinking but on perceiving, because they have heard or seen something. The reason is this: their sight and hearing are so strong that unconsciously they have fantasies about what they have seen or heard."
Carl Gustav Jung studied Paracelsus intensively. His work Mysterium Conjunctionis further drew from alchemical symbolism as a tool in psychotherapy. Following Paracelsus' path, it was Jung who first theorised that the symbolic language of alchemy was an expression of innate but unconscious psychological processes.
Paracelsus called for the humane treatment of the mentally ill (but was ignored for several centuries) as he saw them not to be possessed by evil spirits, but merely 'brothers' ensnared in a treatable malady."
- Paracelsus is a main character in Marc Olden's (1978) Book Poe Must Die, In the book, Jonathan is a dramatically evil villain who disguises and names himself Dr. Paracelsus.
- Dr. Faust's character in Goethe's Faust (1808) can be traced back to Paracelsian origins, particularly his quest for the "essence of life" and preoccupation with the occult.
- Paracelsus is mentioned in Plate 22 of William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
- Robert Browning wrote a long poem based on the life of Paracelsus, entitled Paracelsus, published 1835; Paracelsus (1835)
- Arthur Schnitzler wrote a verse play, Paracelsus (1899), about him.
- Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer wrote a novel trilogy (Paracelsus-Trilogie, 1917–26) about him.
- Paracelsus is the main character of Jorge Luis Borges's short story "The Rose of Paracelsus".
- The German drama film Paracelsus was made in 1943, directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. Pabst was later sharply criticised for having produced this film in Nazi Germany, subject—like all German films at the time—to the supervision of Goebbels and the considerations of Nazi propaganda.
- He is mentioned in the second chapter of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein along with Cornelius Agrippa and Albertus Magnus. These three names are also mentioned in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark".
- In the Capcom video game Resident Evil 3, an electromagnetic railgun is named Paracelsus' Sword.
- Like Agrippa, Paracelsus is one of the 101 Famous Witches and Wizards cards that come with Chocolate Frogs in the Harry Potter universe. In the books, his statue appears in Hogwarts.
- He is a major character in Jesse Bullington's The Enterprise of Death.
- He is mentioned in the 92nd chapter of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.
- Mark Barratt's (1991) Radio Play, "The Peacock's Tail" deals with events (some fictitious) surrounding his soujourn in Basel circa 1527. The production was first broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 29 April 1991, with Alan Howard as Paracelsus.
- In the manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, the Elric brothers' father's name is Van Hohenheim. In the manga and 2009 adaptation Van Hohenheim receives his name after being offered the name "Theophrastus Bombastus" by the Dwarf in the Flask and refusing it.
- Paracelsus is listed as one of the 'many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity' in the 'Cyclops' episode of James Joyce's Ulysses.
- Paracelsus figures prominently in Robertson Davies' The Cornish Trilogy first part: The Rebel Angels.
- In the game Haunting Ground, the main villain is named Aureolus.
- Paracelsus is identified as a significant influence on the unorthodox approach to healing practiced by Dr Jon Hullah in Robertson Davies novel The Cunning Man.
- In Beauty and the Beast, a depraved scientist who calls himself Paracelsus is one of the principal villains of the series.
- In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Roger Chillingworth gives Hester Prynne a remedy that is at least "as old as Paracelsus".
- In the book "The Country of the cinnamon" ("El País de la Canela" en español) from the Colombian writer William Ospina, Paracelsus is quoted by one of his disciples that has adopted his master´s name Teofrastus.
- In George Eliot's Middlemarch (2nd book, 12th chapter) he is mentioned as someone no longer worth refuting.
- In the film Nosferatu (1922), the character Professor Bulwer is described in the credits as a Paracelsian.
- In the Team Fantomen stories, the Skull Ring was given to the first Phantom by Paracelsus.
- In the TV series Warehouse 13, Paracelsus (played by Anthony Head) was known as a famous alchemist who was bronzed by the agents of Warehouse 9 for the slaughter of 600 people in order to create a philosophers stone which he would use to obtain immortality. He was un-bronzed and became the main antagonist in the series towards the end of Season 4 and beginning of season 5.
- Paracelsus is a friend of the Fey, Puck in Azlander- Second Nature by Gabriel Brunsdon.
- He is referred to as "the great man Bombast, the second Trismegist, Philip Theophrast", by the Swedish symphonic metal band Therion on their 2007 album Gothic Kabbalah, in the song "Three Treasures".
- In the video game Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the level 50 Alchemist's primary tool is named Paracelsus.
- He appears in the Type-Moon light novel "Fate/Prototype: Fragments of Blue and Silver" as a servant in the Caster class. He is also obtainable to the player in the mobile game "Fate/Grand Order".
- His fictional great-grandson Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz is a recurring character in the Ring of Fire (163x) hypernovel by Eric Flint and others, particularly (for Dr. Gribbleflotz) Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright.
- Published during his lifetime
- Die große Wundarzney Ulm, 1536 (Hans Varnier); Augsburg (Haynrich Stayner (=Steyner)), 1536; Frankfurt/ M. (Georg Raben/ Weygand Hanen), 1536.
- Vom Holz Guaico, 1529.
- Von der Frantzösischen kranckheit Drey Bücher, 1530.
- Vonn dem Bad Pfeffers in Oberschwytz gelegen, 1535.
- Prognostications, 1536.
- Posthumous publications
- Wundt unnd Leibartznei. Frankfurt/ M., 1549 (Christian Egenolff); 1555 (Christian Egenolff); 1561 (Chr. Egenolff Erben).
- Von der Wundartzney: Ph. Theophrasti von Hohenheim, beyder Artzney Doctoris, 4 Bücher. (Peter Perna), 1577.
- Von den Krankheiten so die Vernunfft Berauben. Basel, 1567.
- Archidoxa. Translated into Latin by Adam Schröter. Kraków: Maciej Wirzbięta, 1569.
- Kleine Wundartzney. Basel (Peter Perna), 1579.
- Opus Chirurgicum, Bodenstein, Basel, 1581.
- Huser quart edition (medicinal and philosophical treatises), Basel, 1589.
- Chirurgical works (Huser), Basel, 1591 and 1605 (Zetzner).
- Straßburg edition (medicinal and philosophical treatises), 1603.
- Kleine Wund-Artzney. Straßburg (Ledertz), Benedictus Figulus. 1608.
- Opera omnia medico-chemico-chirurgica, Genevae, Vol. 3, 1658.
- Philosophia magna, tractus aliquot, Cöln, 1567.
- Philosophiae et Medicinae utriusque compendium, Basel, 1568.
- Liber de Nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris et de caeteris spiritibus
- Modern editions
- Paracelsus: Sämtliche Werke: nach der 10 Bändigen Huserschen Gesamtausgabe (1589-1591) zum erstenmal in neuzeitliches deutsch übersetzt, mit Einleitung, Biographie, Literaturangaben und erklärenden Anmerkungen. Edited by Bernhard Aschner. 4 volumes. Jena : G. Fisher, 1926-1932.
- Paracelsus: Sämtliche Werke. Edited by Karl Sudhoff, Wilhelm Matthiessen, and Kurt Goldammer. Part I (Medical, scientific, and philosophical writings), 14 volumes (Munich and Berlin, 1922-1933). Part II (Theological and religious writings), 7 volumes (Munich and Wiesbaden, 1923-1986).
- Theophrastus Paracelsus: Werke. Edited by Will-Erich Peuckert, 5 vols. Basel and Stuttgart: Schwabe Verlag, 1965-1968.
Selected English translations
- Paracelsus: His Life and Doctrines Franz Hartmann, New York: Theosophical Publishing Co., 1918
- Wouter Hanegraaff (Ed.): Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1494-1541). Essential Theoretical Writings. Edited and translated with a Commentary and Introduction by Andrew Weeks. Brill, Leiden/Boston 2008, ISBN 978-90-04-15756-9.
- Paracelsus: Selected Writings ed. with an introduction by Jolande Jacobi, trans. Norbert Guterman, New York: Pantheon, 1951 reprinted Princeton 1988
- The Hermetic And Alchemical Writings Of Paracelsus, Two Volumes, translated by Arthur Edward Waite, London, 1894. (in Google books), see also a revised 2002 edition (preview only) Partial contents: Coelum Philosophorum; The Book Concerning The Tincture Of The Philosophers; The Treasure of Treasures for Alchemists; The Aurora of the Philosophers; Alchemical Catechism.
- The Archidoxes of Magic by Theophrastus Paracelsus, translated by Robert Turner. Facsimile reprint of the 1656 edition with introduction by Stephen Skinner, Ibis Publishing, 2004.
- Paracelsus: Essential Readings. Selected and translated by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1999.
- Paracelsus: Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541: Essential Theoretical Writings. Ed. and trans. by Andrew Weeks. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
- Digital library, University of Braunschweig
- Zürich Paracelsus Project
- Dana F. Sutton, An Analytic Bibliography of Online Neo-Latin Texts, Philological Museum, University of Birmingham — A collection of "digital photographic reproductions", or online editions of the Neo-Latin works of the Renaissance.