portrait by Quentin Massys
|Born||Philip von Hohenheim|
(1493-11-11)11 November 1493 or
(1493-12-17)17 December 1493
Egg, near Einsiedeln, Old Swiss Confederacy (present-day Switzerland)
|Died||24 September 1541(1541-09-24) (aged 47)|
Salzburg, Archbishopric of Salzburg (present-day Austria)
|Cause of death||Unknown|
|Other names||Theophrastus von Hohenheim; Phillipus Areolus; Bombastus|
Paracelsus (born Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 11 November or 17 December 1493 – 24 September 1541) was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist. He is also credited for giving zinc its name, calling it zincum.
"Paracelsus", meaning "equal to or greater than Celsus", refers to the Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus from the 1st century, known for his tract on medicine.
 BiographyParacelsus 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; she presumably died in his childhood. In 1502 the family moved to Villach, Carinthia where Paracelsus' father worked as a physician. He received a profound humanistic and theological education by his father, local clerics and the convent school of St. Paul's Abbey in the Lavanttal. 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.
His wanderings as an itinerant physician and sometime journeyman miner took him through Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Russia.
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 Agrippa and 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 this time in Europe. Paracelsus devoted several sections in his writings to the construction of 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 was also responsible for the creation of laudanum, an opium tincture very common until the 19th century.
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 a legal dispute over a physician's fee he sued to collect. 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 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 at the age of 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.
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.
His motto was "Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "Let no man belong to another who can belong to himself."
 PhilosophyParacelsus believed in the Greek concept of the four elements, but he also introduced the idea that, on another level, the cosmos is fashioned from three spiritual substances: the tria prima of mercury, sulfur, and salt. These substances were not the simple substances we recognise today, but were rather broad principles that gave every object both its inner essence and outward form. Mercury represented the transformative agent (fusibility and volatility); sulfur represented the binding agent between substance and transformation (flammability); and salt represented the solidifying/substantiating agent (fixity and noncombustibility). For example, when a piece of wood is burnt, the products reflect its constitution: smoke reflects mercury, flame reflects sulfur, and ash reflects salt.
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.
 Contributions to medicineParacelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. His hermetical views were that sickness and health in the body relied on the harmony of man (microcosm) and Nature (macrocosm). He took an approach different 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. (Debus & Multhauf, p. 6-12)
As a result of this hermetical idea of harmony, the universe's macrocosm was represented in every person as a microcosm. According to the insights at the time, there were Seven planets in the sky, Seven metals on Earth and Seven centers (or major organs) in Man — seven was a special number. Everything was heavenly and closely interrelated (see table below).
Diseases were caused by poisons brought here from the stars. But 'poisons' were not necessarily something negative, in part because related substances interacted, in part because only the dose determined if a substance was poisonous or not. Evil could expel evil. Therefore, poisons could have beneficial medical effects. Because everything in the universe was interrelated, beneficial medical substances could be found in herbs, minerals and various alchemical combinations hereof. 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 whom there necessarily had to be a difference between the Creator and the created.
He summarised his own views:
|“||Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines.(Edwardes, p. 47) (also in: Holmyard, Eric John. Alchemy. p. 170)||”|
Hippocrates put forward the theory that illness was caused by an imbalance of the four humours: 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. The dominant medical treatments at 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 humours. Paracelsus supplemented and challenged this view with his beliefs that illness was the result of the body being attacked by outside agents.
Paracelsus' major work On the Miners' Sickness and Other Diseases of Miners documented the occupational hazards of metalworking including treatment and prevention strategies. He also wrote a book on the human body contradicting Galen's ideas.
 Contributions to toxicologytoxicology, wrote:
- German: Alle Ding' sind Gift, und nichts ohn' Gift; allein die Dosis macht, daß ein Ding kein Gift ist.
- "All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; only the dose permits something not to be poisonous."
 Contributions to psychotherapyParacelsus 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."
 Legend and rumourMany books mentioning Paracelsus also cite him as the origin of the word "bombastic" to describe his often arrogant speaking style, which the following passage illustrates:
I am Theophrastus, and greater than those to whom you liken me; I am Theophrastus, and in addition I am monarcha medicorum and I can prove to you what you cannot prove...I need not don a coat of mail or a buckler against you, for you are not learned or experienced enough to refute even a word of mine...As for you, you can defend your kingdom with belly-crawling and flattery. How long do you think this will last?...Let me tell you this: every little hair on my neck knows more than you and all your scribes, and my shoe buckles are more learned than your Galen and Avicenna, and my beard has more experience than all your high colleges.According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of the word "bombastic" is "bombast", an old term for cotton stuffing, rather than a play on Paracelsus's middle name, Bombastus.
— Paracelsus, Selected Writings 
 WorksPublished 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.
- Archidoxa. Kraków, 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 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
 Selected English translations
- 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.
 Online bibliographies
- 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.
 In fiction
- Paracelsus is mentioned in Plate 22 of William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
- Arthur Schnitzler wrote a verse play Paracelsus (1899) about him
- Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer wrote a novel trilogy (Paracelsus-Tirologie, 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 Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein along with Cornelius Agrippa and Albertus Magnus.
- 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 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 anime series FullMetal Alchemist, the Elric brothers' father's name is Van Hohenheim. In the remake, FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, 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 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 (1987 TV series), a depraved scientist who calls himself Paracelsus is one of the principle 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.
- Geoffrey Davenport, Ian McDonald, Caroline Moss-Gibbons (Editors), The Royal College of Physicians and Its Collections: An Illustrated History, Royal College of Physicians, 2001, p.48.
- Digitaal Wetenschapshistorisch Centrum (DWC) - KNAW: "Franciscus dele Boë"
- Allen G. Debus, "Paracelsus and the medical revolution of the Renaissance"—A 500th Anniversary Celebration from the National Library of Medicine (1993), p. 3.
- Hefner Alan G. "Paracelsus". http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/paracelsus.html.
- Marshall James L; Marshall Virginia R (2005). "Rediscovery of the Elements: Paracelsus" (PDF). The Hexagon of Alpha Chi Sigma (Winter): 71–8. ISSN 0164-6109. OCLC 4478114. http://web.unife.it/centro/paracelsus/archivi/c_2005_hexagon_winter2005.pdf.
- Conner Clifford D (2005). A peoples history of science. New York : miners, midwives, and 'low mechanicks': Nation Books. pp. 306. ISBN 1-56025-748-2. OCLC 62164511.
- Alex Wittendorff, Claus Bjørn, Ole Peter Grell, T. Morsing, Per Barner Darnell, Hans Bjørn, Gerhardt Eriksen, Palle Lauring, Kristian Hvidt (1994) (in Danish). Tyge Brahe. Gad. ISBN 87-12-02272-1. p44-45
- p. 435, Verkehrsmedizin: Fahreignung, Fahrsicherheit, Unfallrekonstruktion, B. Madea, F. Mußhoff, and G. Berghaus, Köln: Deutscher Ärzte-Verlag, 2007, ISBN 3-7691-0490-0.
- Paracelsus, Selected Writings, ed. with an introduction by Jolande Jacobi, trans. Norbert Guterman, (New York : Pantheon, 1951), p. 79-80
- "NY Times: Paracelsus". NY Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/37218/Paracelsus/details. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
 Further reading
- Ball, Philip. The Devil's Doctor ISBN 978-0-09-945787-9 (Arrow Books, Random House)
- Moran, Bruce T. (2005) Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution (Harvard Univ. Press, 2005), Ch. 3.
- Pagel, Walter (2nd ed. 1982). Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance. Karger Publishers, Switzerland. ISBN 3-8055-3518-X.
- Webster, Charles. (2008) Paracelsus: Medicine, Magic, and Mission at the End of Time (Yale Univ. Press, 2008)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Paracelsus|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:|
- Works by or about Paracelsus in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Azogue: A section of the e-journal Azogue with original reproductions of paracelsian texts.
- The Zurich Paracelsus Project
- History of zinc
- Allen G. Debus, "Paracelsus and the medical revolution of the Renaissance" - A 500th Anniversary Celebration from the National Library of Medicine (1993), p. 3.
- Theophrastus Paracelsus - Detailed entry from The Catholic Encyclopedia
- Biographical notes from The Galileo Project
- Paracelsus (from the Mystica)
- Paracelsus (from Alchemy Lab)
- The uses of enchantment, The Economist, 19 January 2006
- Paracelsus – The physician, healer, and philosopher
- "After Hippocrates", Time (Feb. 03, 1941)
- Some places and memories of Paracelsus
|Alternative names||von Hohenheim, Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus|
|Short description||physician, occultist|
|Date of birth||11 November or 17 December 1493|
|Place of birth||Einsiedeln, Switzerland|
|Date of death||24 September 1541|
|Place of death||Salzburg|