From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Paracelsus (11 November or 17 December 1493 in Einsiedeln, Switzerland – 24 September 1541 in Salzburg, Austria) was a Medieval physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist. Born Phillip von Hohenheim, he later took up the name Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, and still later took the title Paracelsus, meaning "equal to or greater than Celsus", a Roman encyclopedist, Aulus Cornelius Celsus from the first century known for his tract on medicine.
Paracelsus was born and raised in the village of Maria Einsiedeln in Switzerland. His father, Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim, was a Swabian chemist and physician; his mother was Swiss. As a youth he worked in nearby mines as an analyst. 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.
Paracelsus rejected Gnostic traditions, but kept much of the Hermetic, neoplatonic, and Pythagorean philosophies from Ficino and Pico della Mirandola; however, Hermetical science had so much Aristotelian theory that his rejection of Gnosticism was practically meaningless. In particular, Paracelsus rejected the magic theories of Agrippa and Flamel; Paracelsus did not think of himself as a magician and scorned those who did, though he was a practicing astrologer, as were most, if not all of the university-trained physicians working at this time in Europe. Astrology was a very important part of Paracelsus' medicine. In his Archidoxes of Magic Paracelsus devoted several sections to astrological talismans for curing disease, providing talismans for various maladies as well as talismans for each sign of the Zodiac. He also invented an alphabet called the Alphabet of the Magi, for engraving angelic names upon talismans.
Paracelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. He used the name "zink" for the element zinc in about 1526, based on the sharp pointed appearance of its crystals after smelting and the old German word "zinke" for pointed. He used experimentation in learning about the human body.
Paracelsus gained a reputation for being arrogant, and soon garnered the anger of other physicians in Europe. He held the chair of medicine at the University of Basel for less than a year; while there his colleagues became angered by allegations that he had publicly burned traditional medical books. He was forced from the city after having legal trouble over a physician's fee he sued to collect.
He then wandered Europe, Africa and Asia Minor, in the pursuit of hidden knowledge. 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. Paracelsus' life is connected to the birth of Lutheranism, and his opinions on the nature of the universe are better understood within the context of the religious ideas circulating during his lifetime.
He died, aged 48, of natural causes 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 the church.
His motto was "alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "let no man that can belong to himself be of another"
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.
- Vonn dem Bad Pfeffers in Oberschwytz gelegen, 1535.
- Prognostications, 1536.
- 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.
- 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 und 1605 (Zetzner).
- Straßburg edition (medicinal and philosophical treatises), 1603.
- Kleine Wund-Artzney. Straßburg (Ledertz) 1608.
- Opera omnia medico-chemico-chirurgica, Genevae, Vol3, 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