PARACELSUS – NOTED IRREGULAR MEDICAL PRACTITIONER
Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, commonly known as Paracelsus, was born in 1493 at Maria Einsiedeln a place near Zurich, Switzerland.
His father was a German chemist and a reputed physician, and his mother was Swiss. Paracelsus learned chemistry from the Abbot Trithemius, a Benedictine monk, and learned the physical properties of minerals, ores, and metals. He also studied at universities in France, Germany, and Italy.
Very early in his career, he developed a taste for a Bohemian mode of life and is reported to have gained a livelihood by psalm-singing, astrological prescriptions, and even by the practice of the Black Magic.
He was also very fascinated by the pretenders or quacks and acquired information about popular remedies and nostrums from them.
In 1526 he was appointed Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the University in Basle where he taught doctrines of his own, denouncing the prevailing tenets of Medical Science, and stressed on the healing powers of nature.
Claiming for himself supremacy over all other teachers and writers, he attacked many medical malpractices of his time and abused the practitioners of profiting from complicated and unnecessary prescriptions including the use of worthless pills, salves, infusions, etc.
According to his view, Philosophy, Astrology, Alchemy, and Virtue were the four pillars of Medicine. However, in 1528 Paracelsus had fallen into disrepute with local doctors, apothecaries, and magistrates and became an object of hatred and persecution. As his enemies grew he had to flee Basle.
Staying with friends Paracelsus spent time to put together ‘Die grosse Wunderartzney’ (“The Great Miracle Medicine”), a work that made him famous immediately.
Paracelsus was also the first to promulgate the theory of the existence of magnetic properties in the human body. He asserted that the human body was endowed with a double magnetism, of which one portion attracted to itself the planets, and was nourished by them. He also stated that the attractive and hidden virtue of man resembles that of amber and of the magnet and that this virtue may be employed by healthy persons for the cure of disease in others. Thus probably originated the idea which developed into Animal Magnetism, and from it, Anton Mesmer is said to have derived inspiration some two hundred years later.
In 1530 Paracelsus wrote a clinical description of syphilis and described the doses of mercury compounds to be taken orally for treatment, a prescription that was continued to be followed for centuries. He also described silicosis (called the “miners’ disease”) as a condition that resulted in inhaling metal vapors and was not a punishment for sin administered by mountain spirits. He anticipated homeopathy by declaring that, “ what makes a man ill also cures him” if given in small doses.
Paracelsus died at Salzburg, Austria, in 1541 in mysterious circumstances.
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