From Alchemy to Chemistry:
Five Hundred Years of Rare and Interesting Books

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rare Book Room Exhibit

PARACELSUS, THEOPHRASTUS PHILIPPUS AUREOLUS BOMBASTUS VON HOHENHEIM (1493 - 1541). Operum Medico-Chimicaorum. 3 vols. Geneva, 1605.

One of the most curious personalities of the sixteenth century was the man afterwards called Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim or Paracelsus. He was a great doctor and an able alchemist. Chemical therapy had been used chiefly externally by the ancients, but Paracelsus recognized the superiority of chemicals taken internally over the traditional, mostly herbal, internal medicines. He imposed strict controls upon their use, however, holding that chemicals must be given only in moderate doses. Paracelsus' method was one of separating drugs into their component parts, rather than compounding them as the ancients had done. Much has been written about Paracelsus as an alchemist, but he was not really interested in the classical alchemist's problems of transmutation, the philosopher's stone, or making gold. Rather, "alchemy" meant to him the invention of new and nontoxic metals for medicinal uses. The three Paracelsian principles - salt, sulfur, and mercury -do not replace the elements of the ancients, nor are they matter of any kind. Instead, he imagined that, in every object, there is a principle (salt) responsible for its solid state; a second principle (sulfur) responsible for its inflammable or "fatty" state; and a third (mercury) responsible for its smoky (vaporous) or fluid state. What is most remarkable about Paracelsus is that he achieved real advance in chemistry and medicine through the revival and original development of lore, which became, in Paracelsus' hands, if not scientific, at least protoscientific. It is difficult to overrate the effect of Paracelsus' achievement on the development of medicine and chemistry.

Partington II, pp115, 124; DSB.

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