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Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences

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Georges Cuvier

3. Sixteenth-century Botanists, Mineralogists, and Chemists

10. The Early Chemists, Mysticism and Alchemy

Texte intégral

The alchemyst Ink on paper attributed to Philip Galle after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1558) National Gallery of Art.

1Messieurs,

2We have now reached the history of the fifth branch of the natural sciences during the period of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century.

  • 1 [Neoplatonism, a system of idealistic, spiritualistic philosophy, tending towards mysticism, which (...)
  • 2 [Pau, in the region of Béarn, one of the traditional provinces of France, located in the Pyrenees (...)

3To a certain extent, anatomy, botany, zoology, and mineralogy had found in the work of the Ancients a basis that was at first commented upon, then expanded and improved. Chemistry, on the other hand, had to emerge entirely from the genius of the moderns; the Ancients had not talked about it. It was either created by the Byzantines or by the Arabs. The Arabs, in particular, were the ones who introduced chemistry in Western Europe but they added to it some characteristics that are dominant in their other works such as mysticism, the taste for the extraordinary, the supernatural, and very little logic and reasoning to explain their experiments; so much so that they asserted that there was a way, which was the same one for both, to improve metals and correct the ailments of the human body. They were convinced that the metals other than gold were metals that were ill; that there existed a substance, which still remained to be discovered, that could purify and heal these metals, as it would also heal all illnesses that men suffered. These peculiar ideas were supported by experiments or observations made by miners, especially those from Germany. These men had observed the various properties of some minerals, the way these earthy and rocky substances could be transformed, through fire or another agent, into a perfect metal. This metamorphosis, the phenomena that looked so extraordinary to them, was not explained by the physics of the Ancients. Metallurgists saw in it a very important discovery and used it as a foundation for endless hopes. The philosophy that was dominant at that time was actually quite favorable to everything that was related to mysticism and superstition; it was called Modified Platonism. The Neoplatonists1 had given a lot of importance to the beings that they thought existed between god and men, which they called either beneficial or harmful demons. They were thought to have great influence on the government of the world; they believed it was possible to identify them from their action based on processes that either emanated from natural powers or from some words; basically with magic. These opinions were so strong and so typical of the spirit of that century that at no other time did we see such a high level of interest in witchcraft and wizards. A council from the Parliament of Pau, in the region of Béarn,2 burned at the stake more than three hundred of these poor people in a very short period of time. The belief in wizards was so common and strong that even those accused of witchcraft believed in it as well; after they were pressured a little, they did not deny the facts that they were accused of. The imagination of these people was so preoccupied by this extraordinary state that several of them really thought they had participated in Sabbath or had been the objects of witchcraft, either in their dreams or during moments of hallucination.

  • 3 [Galenic pharmacy, a branch of pharmacy that relates to the preparation of medicines by infusion, (...)

4During these times of such beliefs, it is not surprising that chemists, or those who wanted to take advantage of the mystery of chemistry, had such an influence on human imagination. Furthermore, they had powerful supports: the first one was the astonishing effect of chemical remedies. Until the end of the fifteenth century, medicine had only used old therapeutic methods that were basically the Galenic pharmacy3 composed of plants and other substances extracted from other organized living things, mixed together to prepare remedies. However, these heroic treatments, in particular the preparations with mercury and antimony, were known and commonly used only later. An amazing success was obtained from the use of mercury against syphilis, of sulfur against cutaneous diseases, and antimony for its sudorific values. This success, based on principles that remained for a very long time a secret in the hands of a few chemists, contributed to the trust people conferred in them, and their credibility increased even more when the obscure language of magic was adopted with the pretense to ward off superior spirits and force them to come and help humanity.

  • 4 [The philosophers’ stone or stone of the philosophers, a legendary alchemical substance said to be (...)
  • 5 [Hermes, a Greek god, but also a person held by the early Christian Fathers as a great sage who li (...)
  • 6 [Solomon (fl. tenth century B.C., born and died in Jerusalem), a king of Israel, the son and succe (...)

5The other reason for the success of chemists was the desire that Princes had to become rich, to get a hold of more sources of wealth than what they already had. The governments until then had not yet needed the currency of modern states because military service was handled by lords of fiefdoms; however, when the wars of the fifteenth century erupted all over Europe and forced the sovereigns to maintain permanent armies, most princes felt the need for gold. Those who did not own large states found themselves hampered; greedy for resources, some of them seized on the idea that it might be possible to find the philosophers’ stone4 and use it, at least for some time. They spent a lot of money to get to that result; yet, as it happens, each time something spurs a great interest, charlatans who are not able to obtain such a thing will show up and promise to get it, with the hope of getting rich or receiving consideration. This is indeed what happened with the transmutation of metals; the world was flooded with owners of the philosophers’ stone. A huge number of pseudo books were published; these pseudo books tried to prove that the science of chemistry that taught universal remedies and the art of transforming metals had existed since Antiquity but had been kept a secret. Its discovery was even credited to Hermes,5 Solomon,6 and other scholars. All these works were written in enigmatic and metaphoric forms, for the simple reason that if the authors had been clear in their explanations, they would have been discredited immediately since they had nothing to say. They could not provide the substance or the combination of elements that was supposed to produce gold; the experiment would have immediately discredited them; thus they hid, as I said, behind enigma that almost everybody thought to contain great secrets. This way they were able to keep for some time the authority that their impudence had brought them.

  • 7 [Antoine-Joseph Pernety, known as Dom Pernety (born February 1716, Roanne; died 16 October 1796, v (...)
  • 8 [The Iliad, an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer; s (...)

6The assertion that alchemy had been known since ancient times increased so much that it was even claimed that ancient mythologies were in fact emblems of alchemy. This doctrine was even taught during the seventeenth century and almost up to this day. We read the work of a Benedictine monk named Pernety7 who claims that the Iliad and the Odyssey are analogous to the Magnum Opus.8

7But among all this nonsense, several alchemists performed real experiments of interest, and while they did them with an imaginary purpose, they discovered facts that were very important for physics and chemistry.

  • 9 Basilius Valentinus or Basil Valentine, alleged to be a fifteenth-century alchemist, possibly the (...)
  • 10 History only mentions convents for women; however, Erfurt or Erfurth had a university that was fou (...)

8The first books with such true facts were published with titles that made people believe they came from Antiquity, like, for example, the name of Basilius Valentinus9 which means powerful king. It was believed that this man had existed during the fifteenth century and it was even said that he was a Benedictine monk in Erfurt. It is probably an error because there was never a convent of Benedictine monks in Erfurt.10

  • 11 Stibium, an obsolete name for antimony; used as a cosmetic in ancient Egypt and Rome.]

9Whatever the case, Basilius Valentinus is credited with the new naming of antimony from the term stibium11 of the Ancients. It is said that he had given some of this substance to pigs and as he noticed that these pigs had become very fat, he gave some of this substance to his monks who were exhausted from fasting and mortifications; but, since most died instead of getting fat, he called the substance in French anti-moine (against-monk).

  • 12 It is what syphilis [see Lesson 1, note 26] was called because the French had contracted this dise (...)
  • 13 Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, see Lesson 1, note 25.]

10The date of publication of Valentinus’s works is no more known than him; but it is not as old as it was said since he mentions the disease of Naples12 which was not published until 1495, and he also mentions the use of mercury in therapy, which was known only at the beginning of the sixteenth century, with the experiments of Berenger of Capri.13 Even some modern critics believe that these books are from the seventeenth century; what is certain is that they were published only during that century. To give them more credibility, they were given an extraordinary origin; it was said that they had been discovered inside a column of the church of Erfurt that had been broken open by thunder.

  • 14 [Der Triumph-Wagen Antimonii, Fratris Basilii Valentini, Benedicter Ordens: allen, so den grund su (...)
  • 15 [Hippocrates, see Volume 1, Lesson 5, note 36.]
  • 16 [Galen, see Volume 1, Lesson 16.]
  • 17 [Raymond Lull, see Lesson 9, note 87.]
  • 18 [Arnaldus de Villa Nova, see Lesson 9, note 88.]

11The main book is called Currus triumphalis Antimonii (the triumphal chariot of antimony).14 The first edition was published in Leipzig in 1604; it is both theoretical and practical. The theoretical part is written in mystical style and includes many insults against the doctors of that time and against Hippocrates15 and Galen.16 However, among all this jumble we can identify some kind of theory; the development of the doctrine of the three principles of mercury, sulfur, and salt is introduced for the first time. It already existed among the Arabs, and we could find it as well in the works of Raymond Llull17 and Arnaldus de Villa Nova,18 and their students, but it was described with less care and in a less general manner. By salt, we mean the principle of dissolubility; with sulfur, the principle of combustibility; and with mercury, the principle of metal composition or the substances related to metal composition. Sulfur, salt, and mercury were also found in plants and animals. The whole system is established by comparisons between some actions; for example, Valentinus often compares the medicinal action of mercury to the action of fire and of sulfuric acid; sulfuric acid, in its pure state, seems to contain some kind of mercury or at least some mercury element. But all these ideas are extremely vague and the addition of mystical ideas and metaphors borrowed from past alchemists does not help to clarify these ideas.

  • 19 [Butter of antimony, a term applied by the alchemists to the compound antimony trichloride, a soft (...)
  • 20 [Escharotic, a substance that promotes the production of scabs, pieces of dead tissue that are cas (...)
  • 21 [Volatile alkali is ammonia, a colorless alkaline gas with a pungent odor and acrid taste, used to (...)
  • 22 [Aqua regia, see Lesson 9, note 23.]
  • 23 [Sugar of Saturn, also known as salt of Saturn, sugar of lead, lead sugar, lead acetate, lead diac (...)
  • 24 [Boerhaave, see Lesson 1, note 78.]

12The positive aspect of Valentinus’s work is the preparations of various medicinal substances, the description of the processes necessary to obtain them, and the description of several of their practical uses. He gives an excellent description of metallic antimony and of the butter of antimony,19 a powerful escharotic substance;20 the red pigment of mercury, volatile alkali,21 potassium sulphate, aqua regia,22 sugar of Saturn,23 and the vitriolic, nitric, and muriatic acids. In summary, we can say that all the pneumato-chemical processes, those that involve the breakdown of airs and their analysis, all the means used by chemistry until Boerhaave24 were described in Valentinus’s work. Boerhaave confirmed it at the beginning of the seventeenth century and asserted it in his writings.

13Valentinus applied chemistry to the organism; he tried to establish that the human body showed in a smaller scale the exact same phenomenon that the world showed on a large scale; thus, he created the word “microcosm” that he applies to the human body and “macrocosm” for the larger body of nature. His writings include several other facts that would be quite remarkable if they were not mixed with a wealth of weird ideas and extraordinary expressions that make its reading difficult. But, at that time, genius and talent could not be free of superstition. The human mind is not able to rid itself all at once of all the mistakes it made in the past. Cardano, whom we are going to talk about now, is the proof of it.

  • 25 He [Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician, physician, astrologer and gambler who wrote more t (...)
  • 26 [De vita propria liber (The book of my life), 1576; a later edition, entitled De propria vita libe (...)

14Gerolamo Cardano25 was born in Pavia in 1501; his father was a lawyer and a physician. He became a very strong mathematician and is one of those who improved algebra the most. We owe him the discovery of the solution to third degree equations. In spite of this extensive scientific knowledge, he was extraordinarily common and superstitious. He supported the cabala, magic, and all the ideas related to alchemy, except for the ones related to transmutation of metals. He also led a very adventurous and extraordinary life. When he died in 1576, we found a book called De vita propria,26 a kind of confession in which he reveals his vices, superstitions, and crimes.

15All these books by Cardano and Valentinus contributed to get people excited, to give them the taste for superstitions and secret experiments; they supported the hope that great facts and a wealth of useful things would thus be discovered.

  • 27 [For Paracelsus the Great, see Lesson 4, note 72.]
  • 28 [Teutonic Order, or the Order of the Teutonic Knights, a German medieval military order, formed at (...)
  • 29 [Johannes Heidenberg, also known as Johannes Tritheim or Trithemius (born 1 February 1462, Tritten (...)
  • 30 [Swabia, a cultural, historic, and linguistic region in southwestern Germany, one of the ten Imper (...)
  • 31 [Fugger of Schwaz is Jakob Fugger (born 6 March 1459, Augsburg; died 30 December 1525, Augsburg), (...)
  • 32 On his way back from Tunis, Charles V (see Lesson 1, note 74) stopped in Augsburg and stayed with (...)
  • 33 [House of Medici, a political dynasty, banking family, and later royal house that first began to g (...)

16One of the men who contributed the most to this elation of the mind was the great Aureolus Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim, called Paracelsus the Great;27 this is indeed how he called himself. He was supposedly the son of a doctor, the natural child of a great master of the Teutonic Order;28 at least the name of Bombast is the name of a family that had a great existence in this order. This lineage was traced to Paracelsus, but whether true or not, it is a fact that this is where he got the name of Bombast that later became in English a synonym of pompousness and arrogance in reference to his behavior. He was born in Switzerland in 1463, in a small town near Zurich called Einsiedeln. He studied with a famous and erudite man who was also a great partisan of alchemy, Abbot Tritheim,29 and very well known among scholars. The taste that lords of that time had for the transmutation of metals led him to a man from Swabia30 named Fugger of Schwaz.31 This family was very famous in Germany for the wealth they acquired in commerce,32 like the Medici in Italy;33 they even created a family of princes that still exists today. Paracelsus was in connection with a member of this family for his research in alchemy; he traveled all over Europe, researching everywhere in the hope of learning secrets and even interviewing old women and old wizards. During his trip to Poland, he was taken prisoner by the Tartars and brought to Tataria. He claims that this is where he learned about the philosophers’ stone.

  • 34 [Johann Froben, or Johannes Frobenius (born c. 1460, Hammelburg, Franconia; died 27 October 1527, (...)
  • 35 [That Paracelsus was forced to flee Basel in 1528, because of a dispute over a physician’s fee, is (...)
  • 36 [Johannes Oporinus, or Joannis Oporini (born 1507; died 1568), a Swiss scholar, introduced early i (...)
  • 37 [Methuselah, according to the Hebrew Bible, purported to be the oldest person to ever live; tradit (...)

17He came back to Basel where he saved the famous printer Froben34 with chemical remedies, and was appointed professor of chemical medicine in 1529. It is almost the first professorship of this kind to be created. He worked there until he had to leave Basel because of a disagreement with a canon of this town. This canon, named Lichtenfeld,35 was in great pain and had promised Paracelsus one hundred crowns for his cure. Paracelsus cured him with only two antimonial pills; the canon felt that the money he had promised in payment was too much for such a small remedy and as a result a judgment was held against Paracelsus who had to leave town. He then traveled through Alsace, Swabia, and stopped from tavern to tavern where he met people who came for a consultation and drank with farmers, and did not even sleep in a bed. He forgot in this crazy life what he knew of Latin. One of his disciples that he had brought with him, Oporinus,36 left him, weary of following him, and unhappy about a blasphemy that he had heard him say. Finally, in 1541, his struggles ended. He died in Salzburg at the age of forty-seven, though he claimed he had an elixir that would extend his life as long as Methuselah.37 What an odd thing! We will see that all physician-chemists led quite an adventurous life and most died before their time.

  • 38 We find that this is an excellent innovation. The best way to get rid of errors and make the truth (...)
  • 39 [Auto da fe or “act of faith,” the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates th (...)
  • 40 [For Valentinus, see note 9, above.]

18Paracelsus had no knowledge of philosophy, dialectic, logic, or any other fundamental sciences; it is said that he was only interested in gaining recognition from the people. He was even the first professor known in modern Europe to give his classes in vernacular language;38 until then, classes were only taught in Latin. He was so much against the Ancients that one day in front of his students he did an auto da fe of the works of Hippocrates and Galen.39 His fame as a doctor was the result of the extraordinary remedies that he used. He had some recipes similar to those of Basilius Valentinus,40 and prescribed antimony, mercury, and opium with great audacity. This way, he cured patients, when he did not kill them, from leprosy, ulcers, and light water retention that had not been cured by the treatments of other doctors.

  • 41 It is said that he [Paracelsus] could not have used any other means; his historians claim that at (...)
  • 42 [The books of Paracelsus: De gradibus, de compositionibus et dosibus receptorum ac naturalium libr (...)

19Paracelsus’s celebrity became so strong that there was no marvel that was not credited to him, especially in foreign countries; it was even claimed that he had made children with an alembic41 by putting in it some drugs. As far as his works are concerned, they are also written in a way to seduce ignorant people; they are filled with grandiloquence and mystical interpellations; he criticizes with an arrogant audacity everything that preceded him. However, he was not without any knowledge in science; he applied some processes that had already been described by Valentinus and other past chemists, and he created some of his own. His books include many observations on vitriol and zinc. They also describe theories: he claims that the air contains a hidden fire and that it is from this substance that he can get the heat and the flame, as it is described in today’s theory of combustion. But these ideas are so much mixed with cabala, magic, and barbarous words created especially to be unintelligible —with superstitions on the virtue of talismans, figures, and letters that were engraved on stones— that they somewhat shape a horrendous assemblage of facts that belong both to chemistry and shameful absurdities. Paracelsus’s books were published during his life time. The main one is called De gradibus et compositionibus receptorum ac naturalium; another one is called Archidoxorum; and a third one is called De natura rerum.42 However, they are completely useless today, even more so than the works of Basilius Valentinus, and are only good to show us how crazy the human spirit can be and also how easy it is for some shameful charlatans, should they seem to know something useful, to receive some credit in the minds of people.

20Paracelsus’s success multiplied the number of physician-chemists and almost all of them took the title of Paracelsist to inspire confidence. They claimed that they could cure diseases without having studied pathology, without worrying about any detail of medicine, and without resorting to the observations of the Ancients. The incredible success that they achieved sometimes made these claims unquestionable to the common human.

  • 43 [Leonhard Thurneysser (born 22 July 1531, Basel; died 1595 or 1596, Cologne), a Swiss scholar who (...)
  • 44 [John George, Elector of Brandenburg (born 11 September 1525, Cologne; died 8 January 1598, Cologn (...)
  • 45 [Petrus Severinus (not to be confused with Marcus Aurelius Severino; see Lesson 2, note 87) or Ped (...)
  • 46 [Frederick II (born 1 July 1534, Haderslev, Denmark; died 4 April 1588, Antvorskov, Denmark), king (...)
  • 47 [For Guintherus Andernacus, see Lesson 1, note 38.]
  • 48 [For Vesalius, see Lesson 1, note 45.]

21Among the Paracelsist physicians, a few are still quite remarkable. For example, among the Germans is Leonhard Thurneysser,43 doctor to the Elector of Brandenburg,44 and Severinus,45 doctor to the King of Denmark,46 since most found a position at the service of Princes; but, each one of them had a different way to express their ideas. As it is always the case when one does not know a subject well, they used many metaphors and formed an enigmatic whole. Guintherus Andernacus,47 Vesalius’s professor of anatomy,48 did not escape Paracelsus’s grandiloquence; at the end of his life, he devoted himself to the medicine of this traveling pioneer.

  • 49 About this organization [Rosicrucianism], see Gabriel Naudé [French librarian and scholar; prolifi (...)
  • 50 [Oswald Croll or Oswaldus Crollius (born c. 1563; died December 1609), a German alchemist and prof (...)
  • 51 [Rudolph or Rudolf II (born 18 July 1552, Vienna; died 20 January 1612, Prague), Holy Roman Empero (...)
  • 52 [Works of Croll (see note 50, above), both published initially at Frankfurt in 1608 by Godefrisi T (...)

22Finally, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Germany saw the creation of a secret society called Rosicrucianism49 which not only did some experiments in chemistry such as the ones that Valentinus and Paracelsus did, but expanded even more the superstitious and theosophic components in their writings. As early as 1610, this organization had set up statutes that prescribed its members to keep secret everything that took place among them. In 1614, it claimed that it would regenerate the world by taking possession of the Princes with the treasures they would get from the philosophers’ stone. Oswald Croll,50 physician to Emperor Rudolph II,51 wrote a book at the end of the sixteenth century called Basilica chimica continens philosophicam descriptionem, etc., and a treatise called Tractatus novus de signaturis rerum internis,52 in which he describes a system that combines astrology with chemistry and cabala. According to him, the stars are the things that give virtues to plants and minerals. Each star is associated with a plant, or more accurately, each plant is associated with a star. He focused on the importance of letters that were engraved on stones that were used as talismans. In summary, his books are a heap of metaphors like the ones we will see reappear in a few philosophic sects from Germany, when we study the history of the natural sciences during the eighteenth century.

  • 53 [Johann or Johannes Reuchlin (born 29 January 1455, at Pforzheim in the Black Forest; died 30 June (...)

23During the time of Rosicrucianism, cabala was highly regarded; it was created from a portion of the Neoplatonic philosophy combined with superstitions from rabbis who credited to letters and their combinations a great power on the intermediary beings, those spirits superior to men. All these ideas on wizards and cabala were spread among the Catholics and the Protestants, but maybe more among the Protestants because since their principle was to go back to the sacred books, they had to study the Hebraic language. Actually they were the ones who, just before the Reformation, gave a new momentum to the study of this language that had been completely forgotten during the Middle Ages. The requirement that they study the books of the rabbis to learn about their philosophy, contributed to instil this philosophy even more in their brain. As a result, some famous and erudite men like Reuchlin,53 who was actually one of the most spiritual men of the sixteenth century, practiced cabala in which they believed strongly.

  • 54 [Hennig Scheunemann (born 1570, Halberstadt; died c. 1615), a German physician, alchemist, and Ros (...)

24The most famous of the Rosicrucianists, namely Hennig Scheunemann, a doctor at Bamberg,54 reduced everything from physiology into chemistry; he claimed that everything that happens in a human body is chemical, and that we could find in the human body every known element of chemistry. He gave a role to each of them. According to him, man goes through seven variations or degrees: combustion, sublimation, dissolution, putrefaction, distillation, coagulation, and coloration. All these different operations are based on the three principles that are established in general chemistry, which are salt, sulfur, and mercury. However, each of these principles shows unique varieties; thus, there is the pneumosus mercury, which is the innate heat or what gives strength; then, there is the cremosus mercury, which is the radical fluid; then the sublimatus mercury, which is the subtle or nervous spirit; and the praecipitatus mercury, which is the acid spirit, destructive of all parts. Sulfur also has various forms: it can either be coagulated or dissolved; sulfur is what produces fats and oils and gives mobility to all parts. Salt also takes different forms: it can be burnt, dissolved, or reflected, and each of these states corresponds to some of the illnesses or phenomenon in men. All of this is quite unintelligible as you can see and could only be supported with theosophic and metaphoric reasoning like the ones suggested by Paracelsus.

  • 55 [Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (born 2 June 1743, Albergheria; died 26 August 1795, Rome), the al (...)

25Italy engaged far less in such mistakes; it only had a few charlatans who sold their secrets like we saw Cagliostro55 do not long ago.

26When these ideas were introduced in France, they were given a more scientific approach because mysticism was less widespread than in Germany. There was an attempt to connect them to the philosophy of the Ancients, which was studied more strongly and where the Neoplatonic system had had less influence than in other countries of Europe, especially Germany.

  • 56 [Joseph Duchesne or du Chesne (Latin Josephus Quercetanus) (born c. 1544, Armagnac; died 1609), a (...)
  • 57 [Henry IV, see Lesson 2, note 57.]
  • 58 [Jean Riolan, see Lesson 2, note 95.]
  • 59 [Vesalius, see Lesson 1, note 45.]
  • 60 [Theodore of Mayenne is Théodore Turquet de Mayerne (born 28 September 1573, Geneva; died 22 March (...)
  • 61 [Charles I, see Lesson 2, note 101.]
  • 62 [Guy or Gui Patin (born 1601, Hodenc-en-Bray, Oise; died 30 August 1672, Paris), a French doctor a (...)

27A great promoter of this medicine, or Paracelsist chemistry, was Joseph Duchesne, in Latin Quercetanus,56 who was doctor to Henry IV.57 He had learned in Basel the chemical medicine of Paracelsus; he looked a lot like him in spirit; like him he was a charlatan, who knew the art of making gold and the universal panacea; finally, he was of the same age, but he was far more educated than Paracelsus; he even knew the Ancients; he also knew Greek and Latin. In spite of this knowledge, he was their fiercest adversary; like Paracelsus and the Rosicruciasnists, he buried them with insults. The faculty of medicine of Paris was not intimidated by this kind of doctrine; on the contrary, it went in a complete opposite excess. Jean Riolan,58 whom we talked about when we studied the history of anatomy, was the one who defended the most ancient medicine and the Galenic pharmacy. He did not like new things, even when they were accurate. He was the one who most opposed some of Vesalius’s discoveries, especially the discovery of blood circulation.59 He fought with fanatic zeal for ancient medicine. He claimed that all the chemists were poisoners and he obtained in 1603 a decree from the faculty of medicine that declared that antimony was a poison in any and all cases. The parliament of Paris in response to this declaration of the faculty forbad the use of antimony, with a sentence of corporal punishment; however, it did not prevent its frequent use since it was effective in curing people. However, physician-chemists were considered charlatans like heterodox physicians; one of them named Theodore of Mayenne60 was even thrown out of the faculty because he claimed that facts of chemistry could not be solved in a general manner and with decrees of justice but by the observation of experiments and their analysis according to the rules of rational philosophy. Mayenne left for England where he became first physician to King Charles I.61 We have several proofs that show that by holding this position, he was very useful to scholars. Physicians of his time were so fanatically opposed to new medicine that each time some remarkable man died, it was claimed that he had been killed by antimony. Everybody knows the letters of Guy Patin62 about that; they prove that at that time there were some disagreements in this country, as it always happens around questions that are the least important.

28Eventually everything was clarified; it was acknowledged that chemistry showed phenomenon that exerted a great influence on nature and that it was useful to do some experiments to improve it. It was also acknowledged that chemical remedies had an energetic action on the human body, that sometimes they were misused, and that in order to appreciate them with exactitude, it would not be good to get rid of them completely; that it was necessary to perform some experiments and trials in order to determine the quantity and the manner to use them. Theosophy, astrology, the philosophers’ stone, and everything that was superstitious was then removed. However, we will see that this flow of rough chemistry, in a physiology that was rough as well, brought an unfortunate influence during all of the seventeenth century; erroneous ideas that had a scientific appearance were substituted with opinions that were ridiculously superstitious. Almost all physiologic phenomenon of animal economy were considered to be chemical phenomenon; some of them are, indeed, but not as much as it was claimed.

  • 63 [Andreas Libau or Libavius (born 1555, Halle; died 25 July 1616, Coburg), a German doctor and chem (...)
  • 64 [Riolan, see Lesson 2, note 95.]

29Among the men who supported chemistry in a rational way was Andreas Libavius of Halle in Saxony.63 He was a professor in Jena in 1588 and later became superintendent of the college of Coburg. He wrote a rather severe yet very wise and scholarly critique on the censorship that Riolan64 had triggered at the faculty of medicine of Paris against chemical remedies.

  • 65 This [the fuming liquor of Libavius; see note 63, above] is, as we know, stannic chloride [first p (...)

30Libavius performed many experiments and among other discoveries, he brought to science the discovery of the fuming liquor that still bears his name.65 He rejected all superstitions and fought both the Galenists for their incomplete pharmacy, and the Paracelsists for their ideas on cabala and their invocations of superior spirits. However, since the truth is rarely reached completely, Libavius still believed in the transmutation of metals. In fact, during all the seventeenth century and even part of the eighteenth century, there were some men of credit who also believed that it was not completely impossible. This opinion remained until it was accepted without a doubt that metals are simple substances.

  • 66 [Jan Baptist van Helmont (born 12 January 1580, Brussels; died 30 December 1644, Vilvoorde), a Fle (...)
  • 67 [Martín Antonio del Río (born 17 May 1551, Antwerp; died 19 October 1608, Leuven), a Jesuit theolo (...)
  • 68 [Jean Bodin (born 1530, Angers; died 1596, Laon), a French jurist and political philosopher, membe (...)

31Another physician-chemist to remember is van Helmont (Jan Baptist)66 who, while he shared the weird ideas of his time, made very beautiful experiments and claimed suggestions that were very useful to science. Van Helmont was born in Brussels of a noble family in 1577. His father died when he was still a child, and he studied with the Jesuits in Louvain where one of his professors was the Jesuit Del Rio,67 well known for his book on wizards. During the same period, Bodin68 wrote a book on the same topic since, at that time, the science of wizards was common.

  • 69 [Marie de Stassard or Maria (van) Stassaert, fl. 1567.] Usually, women have more preconceived idea (...)
  • 70 Some biographers say that he [van Helmont; see note 66, above] gave his possessions to his sister; (...)
  • 71 [Elector of Cologne: among the numerous sixteenth-century individuals that held this title, it is (...)
  • 72 [Rudolph II, see Lesson 6, note 76.]
  • 73 [Vilvoorde, a Belgian municipality in the Flemish province of Flemish Brabant.]
  • 74 [Archeus or archaeus, a term used generally to refer to the lowest and most dense aspect of the as (...)

32Van Helmont went into medicine, despite the opinion of his class and the wish of his parents, especially his mother, Marie de Stassard.69 He studied with an extraordinary fervor and very soon knew the books of the Ancients. In 1599, at the age of only twentytwo, he was granted his doctorate in medicine; however, after he tried with no success to cure himself of scabies with the remedies that were then taught by the Galenists, he abandoned medicine with disdain, threw away all his books and gave all his possessions to his brothers.70 During a period of ten years he traveled like Paracelsus, to learn secrets, to know if among the marvelous knowledge that some men claimed to have, there was any that was really useful. After a charlatan gave him some sulfur and mercury that cured him from the scabies he suffered, he became ardently interested in chemical science and especially in secret remedies. He went to Vilvorde, near Brussels, where he married a rich noble woman. He spent the rest of his life in this place, working on chemical research and medicinal practices. Any patient who would come and see him received free care and he claims that he cured several thousands. The experiments that cost him all his fortune almost cost him his life many times; he was bad at preparing the experiments and did not know how to prevent explosions and gas expansions. His devotion to science, while somewhat lost with superstitious ideas, brought him the esteem of his contemporaries. The Elector of Cologne,71 for example, gave him great credit; Rudolph II,72 who was at that time a great protector of sciences as you saw earlier, called him to work for him; but he preferred his retreat to the court of this emperor. Though he claimed to have infallible remedies, he lost almost all his family in Vilvoorde.73 His daughter died of scabies, his son of leprosy, and his wife died in his arms; he could not cure himself either of a poisoning that weakened him all his life and that eventually killed him in 1644. However, he lived longer than Paracelsus since he died at sixty-seven. He had adopted most of the theosophic ideas of this traveling doctor. Van Helmont accepted, for example, the principle of the archeus,74 which is the superior principle that, according to Paracelsus, dominates in beings; however, he gave it a more materialistic character. He assumed that all phenomena in the organism are regulated by it, that it existed as a subtle spirit that he called aura vitalis. According to him, fermentation is the process that makes this archeus produce the various vital phenomena. By the process of fermentation and water, it also produces all bodies. However, van Helmont rejects all the qualities that peripatetics had attributed to elements. He calls gas the steam that results from the action of heat on water. I want you to notice this word, gas, because it remained in science; we use this word today to represent an airlike substance that, as soon as it is produced, cannot reverse to a liquid state when cooling; this is the case, for example, of hydrogen that remains elastic under the pressure of our atmosphere. Van Helmont was the first one to identify these gases; according to him, all bodies produce such gas, which needs to be distinguished from ordinary air. He introduced in particular carbonic acid, which he named Sylvester gas and of which he knew very well its properties of asphyxiating people and turning lights off. He also knew the flammable gas called hydrogen. He also knew the fact that the air in which elements are burnt decreases in volume, which is part of the basis for the combustion theory. Finally, he claims several other principles that he names with barbarous names like Paracelsus had done before; but Paracelsus had done it often with the purpose of not being understood. Van Helmont did not have the same purpose in mind; he was not a charlatan; he only gave weird names to his discoveries to spare him the research of names in ancient languages; the word gas that I just talked about, is a barbaric name coming only from his imagination.

  • 75 [For Descartes, see Volume 1, Lesson 6, note 7.]

33Van Helmont called Blas the principle he gave to the star system in which we could recognize Descartes’s75 main idea of turbulence. He called Leffus a principle that would have produced plants without seeds, and Bur the principle of metallization. All these practical ideas did not have any influence on the progress of science.

  • 76 [Opuscula medica inaudita: I. De Lithiasi, II. De Febribus, III. De Humoribus Galeni, IV. De Peste (...)

34Most of van Helmont’s works were published after his death by his son. Among these is a book on thermal water called Opuscula modica inaudita.76 It was published by his son in 1648, four years after his father’s death, in a collection of his works that includes several small treatises in which he describes his various doctrines.

35We will see that the works of van Helmont, those that were published under the name of Basilius Valentinus, the experiments done by Paracelsus, Libavius, various Rosicrucianists, and other German chemists were very useful to the arts and to medicine and encouraged people to study these topics, though they still maintained a mystical language and connected the phenomenon they observed to hidden and abstract principles.

  • 77 [Henry Cavendish (born 10 October 1731, Nice; died 24 February 1810, London), a British natural ph (...)
  • 78 [Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (born 26 August 1743, Paris; died 8 May 1794, Paris, by guillotine), (...)
  • 79 [For Stahl, see Lesson 9, note 88.]

36Van Helmont ends the history of chemistry around the middle of the seventeenth century, approximately at the same time as we saw the end of the history of anatomy, botany, zoology, and mineralogy. The path that chemistry took after van Helmont was partly derived from his ideas; indeed, pneumatic chemistry, which is the chemistry of gases, the science that produced such remarkable discoveries during our time with Cavendish,77 Lavoisier,78 and other scholars, had already been discovered in the seventeenth century, thanks to van Helmont’s ideas, experiments, and discoveries. It has only been analyzed recently by the system of Stahl.79 However, this part of history of the sciences is from a different period than the one we are studying now.

37In our next lesson, I will talk about what made the course of sciences change around the middle of the seventeenth century, what led people to give up the blind attachment they had for the ideas of the Ancients and the superstitious ideas that the new philosophers had introduced, finally directing scholars in the true direction, the one of mathematics and experimentation.

38I will then talk about the history of the next period as long as it is within the seventeenth century because I do not think I will have enough time this year to go beyond it.

Notes

1 [Neoplatonism, a system of idealistic, spiritualistic philosophy, tending towards mysticism, which flourished in the pagan world of Greece and Rome during the first centuries of the Christian era. It is of interest and importance, not merely because it is the last attempt of Greek thought to rehabilitate itself and restore its exhausted vitality by recourse to Oriental religious ideas, but also because it definitely entered the service of pagan polytheism and was used as a weapon against Christianity. It derives its name from the fact that its first representatives drew their inspiration from Plato’s doctrines.]

2 [Pau, in the region of Béarn, one of the traditional provinces of France, located in the Pyrenees Mountains in southwest France close to the Spanish border.]

3 [Galenic pharmacy, a branch of pharmacy that relates to the preparation of medicines by infusion, decoction, etc., as distinguished from those that are chemically prepared.]

4 [The philosophers’ stone or stone of the philosophers, a legendary alchemical substance said to be capable of turning base metals such as lead into gold or silver. It was also sometimes believed to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality. For many centuries, it was the most sought-after goal in alchemy. The philosophers’ stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosophers’ stone were known as the Magnum Opus, the “Great Work.”]

5 [Hermes, a Greek god, but also a person held by the early Christian Fathers as a great sage who lived before Moses, a pious and wise man who received revelations from God that were later fully explained by Christianity; but his true identity, and what may be said of the philosophy or religion that is connected with him is wrapped in mystery.]

6 [Solomon (fl. tenth century B.C., born and died in Jerusalem), a king of Israel, the son and successor of David, who reigned from about 970 to 931 B.C.; regarded as the greatest king of Israel, his legendary wisdom is recorded in the Book of Proverbs.]

7 [Antoine-Joseph Pernety, known as Dom Pernety (born February 1716, Roanne; died 16 October 1796, vignon), French writer, Benedictine monk of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, Abbot of Burgel in Thuringe, and librarian of Frederic the Great of Prussia; he is the author of a classic work on alchemy, remarkable for its encyclopedic clarity and almost the sole source from which modern expounders of Alchemy have derived their information: Les fables Egyptiennes et Grecques dévoilées et réduites au même principe, avec une explication des hiéroglyphes, et de la guerre de Troye, Paris: Jean-Baptiste-Claude Bauche, 1758, 2 vols, in-8°.]

8 [The Iliad, an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer; set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles; paired with a sequel, the Odyssey, also attributed to Homer, the two are among the oldest extant works of Western literature, usually dated to about the eighth century B.C. For Magnum Opus, see note 4, above.]

9 Basilius Valentinus or Basil Valentine, alleged to be a fifteenth-century alchemist, possibly the Canon of the Benedictine Priory of Saint Peter in Erfurt, Germany, but there is no evidence of such a name on the rolls in Germany or in Rome and no mention of this name before 1600; his putative history appears to be of later creation than the writings themselves. Whoever he was, he had considerable chemical knowledge. He showed that ammonia could be obtained by the action of alkali on ammonium chloride, described the production of hydrochloric acid by acidifying brine (sodium chloride), and created oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid), among other achievements.]

10 History only mentions convents for women; however, Erfurt or Erfurth had a university that was founded by Dagobert [born c. 603; died 19 January 639, Paris), king of Austrasia (623-634), king of all the Franks (629-634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (629-639); he was the last king of the Merovingian dynasty to wield any real royal power and the first of the Frankish kings to be buried in the royal tombs at Saint Denis Basilica, Paris]; it might have been that one of its professors published that book [see note 14, below]; it was first published in German, then in Latin [M. de St.-Agy].

11 Stibium, an obsolete name for antimony; used as a cosmetic in ancient Egypt and Rome.]

12 It is what syphilis [see Lesson 1, note 26] was called because the French had contracted this disease in Naples during Charles VIII’s [born 30 June 1470, Château d’Amboise; died 7 April 1498, Château d’Amboise; a monarch of the House of Valois who ruled as King of France from 1483 until his death in 1498] expedition [invasion of Italy] in 1495 [M. de St.-Agy].

13 Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, see Lesson 1, note 25.]

14 [Der Triumph-Wagen Antimonii, Fratris Basilii Valentini, Benedicter Ordens: allen, so den grund suchen der uhralten Medicin, auch zu der Hermetischen Philosophy beliebnis tragen. Zu gut publiciret und an Tag geben Durch Johann Thölden Hessum, Leipzig: Jacob Apels, 1604, [40] + 622 + [32] p., in-8°; a second edition was published in Latin in 1646: Currus triumphalis antimonii: opus antiquioris medicinae et philosophiae hermeticae studiosis dicatum. É germanico in latinum versum operâ, studio & sumptibus Petri Joannis Fabri doctoris medici Monspeliensis. Et notis perpetuis ad marginem appositis ab eodem illustratum, Toulouse: Petrum Bosc, [25] + 398 p., in-8°.]

15 [Hippocrates, see Volume 1, Lesson 5, note 36.]

16 [Galen, see Volume 1, Lesson 16.]

17 [Raymond Lull, see Lesson 9, note 87.]

18 [Arnaldus de Villa Nova, see Lesson 9, note 88.]

19 [Butter of antimony, a term applied by the alchemists to the compound antimony trichloride, a soft colorless solid with a pungent odor used chiefly in coloring metals, as a catalyst, and as a mordant.]

20 [Escharotic, a substance that promotes the production of scabs, pieces of dead tissue that are cast off from the surface of the skin, particularly after a burn injury, but also seen in gangrene, ulcers, fungal infections, necrotizing spider bite wounds, and exposure to cutaneous anthrax.]

21 [Volatile alkali is ammonia, a colorless alkaline gas with a pungent odor and acrid taste, used to manufacture a wide variety of nitrogen-containing organic and inorganic chemicals.]

22 [Aqua regia, see Lesson 9, note 23.]

23 [Sugar of Saturn, also known as salt of Saturn, sugar of lead, lead sugar, lead acetate, lead diacetate, and plumbous acetate, a white crystalline chemical compound with a sweetish taste, used as a reagent to make other lead compounds and as a fixative for some dyes.]

24 [Boerhaave, see Lesson 1, note 78.]

25 He [Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician, physician, astrologer and gambler who wrote more than 200 works on medicine, mathematics, physics, philosophy, religion, and music; born 24 September 1501, Pavia; died 21 September 1576, Rome] was an illegitimate child who made the peculiar acknowledgment that his mother used emmenagogues [herbs that stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, causing menstruation] during her pregnancy. He is said to have suffered from bouts of lunacy; he used to say that he was visited by a familiar demon, who would give him some warnings, as well as sometimes by a good angel. He often read the prediction of his death in his horoscope and blamed the wrong prediction on the ignorance of the artist rather than on the uncertainty of the art. Finally he drew the horoscope of Jesus Christ, which is a true masterpiece of extravagance [and for which he was imprisoned for heresy by the Inquisition] [M. de St.-Agy].

26 [De vita propria liber (The book of my life), 1576; a later edition, entitled De propria vita liber: Ex Bibliotheca Gab. Navdæi. Adjecto hac secunda editione de Præceptis ad filios libello, was published in Amsterdam, in 1654, by Joannes Ravestein, [72] + 288 p., in-12.]

27 [For Paracelsus the Great, see Lesson 4, note 72.]

28 [Teutonic Order, or the Order of the Teutonic Knights, a German medieval military order, formed at the end of the twelfth century, that became in modern times a purely religious Catholic order; it was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals.]

29 [Johannes Heidenberg, also known as Johannes Tritheim or Trithemius (born 1 February 1462, Trittenheim; died 13 December 1516, Würzburg), a German abbot and historian best known for his Steganographia, ars per occultam Scripturam animi sui voluntatem absentibus aperiendi certu, a strange work in three volumes, about using spirits to communicate over long distances; it was written in about 1499, but not published until 1606, in Frankfurt by Joannis Berneri.]

30 [Swabia, a cultural, historic, and linguistic region in southwestern Germany, one of the ten Imperial Circles of the Holy Roman Empire from 1500 to the dissolution of the Empire in 1806.]

31 [Fugger of Schwaz is Jakob Fugger (born 6 March 1459, Augsburg; died 30 December 1525, Augsburg), a member of the Fugger family of bankers and merchants in Augsburg (with centers of business also in Tyrol, Venice, Rome, and later in Innsbruck and Hall, as well as Schwaz), who accumulated great wealth as banker for the Habsburg dynasty.]

32 On his way back from Tunis, Charles V (see Lesson 1, note 74) stopped in Augsburg and stayed with the Fugger family (see note 31, above); among other magnificent gifts that they gave him, they put in the chimney of his room a bundle of cinnamon that they lit, with the promise to pay a large sum of money that the emperor owed them [M. de St.-Agy].

33 [House of Medici, a political dynasty, banking family, and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de’Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late fourteenth century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside, gradually rising until they were able to fund the Medici Bank. The bank was the largest in Europe during the fifteenth century, and although they wielded considerable political power in Florence, they officially remained citizens rather than monarchs.]

34 [Johann Froben, or Johannes Frobenius (born c. 1460, Hammelburg, Franconia; died 27 October 1527, Basel), a famous printer and publisher in Basel, whose work made that city in the sixteenth century the leading center of the Swiss book trade.]

35 [That Paracelsus was forced to flee Basel in 1528, because of a dispute over a physician’s fee, is well known, but we have been unable to identify this Lichtenfeld, canon of that city.]

36 [Johannes Oporinus, or Joannis Oporini (born 1507; died 1568), a Swiss scholar, introduced early in his career to the world of medicine by Paracelsus (see Lesson 4, note 72), for whom he served for a time as his assistant. Oporinus later became one of the most important printers of the sixteenth century, making a considerable contribution to this flourishing period of printing in Basel; his most significant publication was De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius (see Lesson 1, notes 45 and 76).]

37 [Methuselah, according to the Hebrew Bible, purported to be the oldest person to ever live; tradition maintains that he died on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 1656 (Anno Mundi, after Creation), at the age of 969, seven days before the beginning of the Great Flood.]

38 We find that this is an excellent innovation. The best way to get rid of errors and make the truth win is to make information understandable to as many people as possible [M. de St-Agy].

39 [Auto da fe or “act of faith,” the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Spanish Inquisition or the Portuguese Inquisition had decided their punishment, followed by the execution by the civil authorities of the sentences imposed; the most extreme punishment imposed on those convicted was execution by burning. In the case at hand, Paracelsus is said to have burned copies of the works of Hippocrates and Galen (see Volume 1, Lessons 5 and 16).]

40 [For Valentinus, see note 9, above.]

41 It is said that he [Paracelsus] could not have used any other means; his historians claim that at the age of three a pig took him for the famous lover of Heloise [Héloïse d’Argenteuil (born c. 1100; died 16 May 1164), a French nun, writer, scholar, and abbess, best known for her love affair and correspondence with Peter Abélard (born 1079; died 21 April 1142), French scholastic philosopher, and preeminent logician]. What is certain is that he did not have a beard and hated women as much as Boileau [Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, a French poet and critic; born 1 November 1636; died 13 March 1711] who, as we know, had also been badly hurt by a rooster as a child. It is said that this event is at the origin of his satires against women; we won’t contest that [M. de St.-Agy].

42 [The books of Paracelsus: De gradibus, de compositionibus et dosibus receptorum ac naturalium libri septem, Myloecii: Petrus Fabricius, 1562, [22] + 67 + [1] p., in-4°); Archidoxorum Aureoli Philippi Theophrasti Paracelsi De secretis naturae mysteriis libri decem, quo rum tenorem versa pagella dabit, Basel: Petrus Pernam, 1570, 460 p., in-8°; and De natura rerum libri septem: Opuscula verè aurea; Ex Germanica lingua in Latinam translata per M. Georgium Forbergium Mysium philosophiae ac medicinae studiosum. De natura hominis libri duo, Basel: Per Petrum Pernam, 1573, 137 p., in-8°.]

43 [Leonhard Thurneysser (born 22 July 1531, Basel; died 1595 or 1596, Cologne), a Swiss scholar who made a number of contributions to pharmacy, chemistry, metallurgy, botany, mathematics, astronomy, medicine. He is best known for his Archidoxa, dorin der recht war Motus, Lauff und Gang, auch Heymlikait, Wirkung und Krafft der Planeten, Getirns und gantzen Firmaments Mutierung, etc., Berlin: Im Grawen Closter, 1575, [11] + 156 + [1] p., illus., in-folio; a large book in the form of an astrolabe with tables of the planets; if used correctly, it was alleged to enable the user to predict his fate or natural disasters.]

44 [John George, Elector of Brandenburg (born 11 September 1525, Cologne; died 8 January 1598, Cologne), Prince-elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (1571-1598) and a Duke of Prussia.]

45 [Petrus Severinus (not to be confused with Marcus Aurelius Severino; see Lesson 2, note 87) or Peder Sørensen (born 1540 or 1542, Ribe, Denmark; died 1602), a Danish physician, one of the most important followers of Paracelsus (see Lesson 4, note 72), and a member of Denmark’s intellectual elite. His works include a major treatise entitled Idea medicinae philosophicae, fundamenta continens totius doctrinae Paracelsicae, Hippocraticae et Galenicae (Basel: Sixti Henricpetri, 1571, [16] + 416 + [16] p., in-4°), which asserted the superiority of the ideas of Paracelsus to those of Galen; his education was supported by the Danish crown (see note 46, below) and his eventual appointment as royal physician conferred status and authority to his work and opinions.]

46 [Frederick II (born 1 July 1534, Haderslev, Denmark; died 4 April 1588, Antvorskov, Denmark), king of Denmark and Norway and duke of Schleswig from 1559 until his death.]

47 [For Guintherus Andernacus, see Lesson 1, note 38.]

48 [For Vesalius, see Lesson 1, note 45.]

49 About this organization [Rosicrucianism], see Gabriel Naudé [French librarian and scholar; prolific writer who produced works on many subjects including politics, religion, history, and the supernatural; born 2 February 1600, Paris; died 10 July 1653, Abbeville] and [Nicolas] Lenglet du Fresnoy [French historian, geographer, philosopher, and bibliographer of alchemy; born 5 October 1674, Beauvais; died 16 January 1755, Paris] [M. de St.-Agy].

50 [Oswald Croll or Oswaldus Crollius (born c. 1563; died December 1609), a German alchemist and professor of medicine at the University of Marburg in Hesse, Germany; a strong proponent of alchemy and the use of chemistry in medicine, he was heavily involved in writing books and influencing thinkers of his day towards viewing chemistry and alchemy as two separate but closely related fields, much as organic and inorganic chemistry are related.]

51 [Rudolph or Rudolf II (born 18 July 1552, Vienna; died 20 January 1612, Prague), Holy Roman Emperor (1576-1612), King of Hungary and Croatia (as Rudolf I, 1572-1608), King of Bohemia (1575-1608/1611), and Archduke of Austria (1576-1608).]

52 [Works of Croll (see note 50, above), both published initially at Frankfurt in 1608 by Godefrisi Tampachii: Basilica chymica: continens philosophicam propria laborum experiential confirmatam descriptionem [et] usum remediorum chymicorum selectissimorum è lumine gratiae [et] naturae desumptorum; and Tractatus novus de signaturis rerum internis rerum seu de vera et viva anatomia majoris & minoris mundi.]

53 [Johann or Johannes Reuchlin (born 29 January 1455, at Pforzheim in the Black Forest; died 30 June 1522, Stuttgart), a German humanist, scholar of Greek and Hebrew, and cabalist magician; for much of his life, he was at the center of all Greek and Hebrew teaching in Germany.]

54 [Hennig Scheunemann (born 1570, Halberstadt; died c. 1615), a German physician, alchemist, and Rosicrucian; professor of physics at the Collegium Ernestinum at Bamberg.]

55 [Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (born 2 June 1743, Albergheria; died 26 August 1795, Rome), the alias of the occultist Giuseppe Balsamo (or Joseph Balsamo), an Italian adventurer and student of alchemy, cabala, and magic; a swindler and expert forger, he is said to have forged a letter by Casanova, despite being unable to understand it.]

56 [Joseph Duchesne or du Chesne (Latin Josephus Quercetanus) (born c. 1544, Armagnac; died 1609), a French physician and follower of Paracelsus (see Lesson 4, note 72), best remembered for his important transitional theories of alchemy.]

57 [Henry IV, see Lesson 2, note 57.]

58 [Jean Riolan, see Lesson 2, note 95.]

59 [Vesalius, see Lesson 1, note 45.]

60 [Theodore of Mayenne is Théodore Turquet de Mayerne (born 28 September 1573, Geneva; died 22 March 1654 or 1655, Chelsea, England), a Swiss physician and chemist who advanced the theories of Paracelsus; as a chemist he worked to develop new pigments, but more important was his influence on the administration of medicine, including the standardization of chemical cures and the first suggestion of socialized medicine in England.]

61 [Charles I, see Lesson 2, note 101.]

62 [Guy or Gui Patin (born 1601, Hodenc-en-Bray, Oise; died 30 August 1672, Paris), a French doctor and man of letters, dean of the faculty of medicine (1650-1652) and professor in the Collège de France from 1655; best known for his extensive correspondence, which survives as important documents for historians of medicine.]

63 [Andreas Libau or Libavius (born 1555, Halle; died 25 July 1616, Coburg), a German doctor and chemist, best known for producing the first textbook of chemistry, entitled Alchemia. Opera e dispersis passim optimorum autorum veterum & recentium exemplis... collecta... explicata, & in integrum corpus redacta. Accesserunt tractatus nonnulli physici chymici... Sunt etiam in chymicis ejusdem D. Libavii epistolis... multa huic operi lucem allatura (Frankfurt: Johannes Saurius, 1597, 424 p., in-4°), which summarized the medieval achievements of alchemy and included, among other things, instructions for the preparation of several strong acids.]

64 [Riolan, see Lesson 2, note 95.]

65 This [the fuming liquor of Libavius; see note 63, above] is, as we know, stannic chloride [first prepared by Libavius by heating tin with mercuric chloride, and used today as a conductive coating and in ceramics]. Libavius was the first one to talk about blood transfusion. It is said that it was the fable of Aeson’s rejuvenation [in Greek mythology, the dying Aeson (father of Jason, leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece) brought back tolife by Medea by drawing the blood from his veins and then filling them with the juice of certain herbs that she had gathered for that purpose, thus restoring him to a life of forty years] that gave him the idea. The idea is, however, quite useless [M. de St.-Agy].

66 [Jan Baptist van Helmont (born 12 January 1580, Brussels; died 30 December 1644, Vilvoorde), a Flemish chemist, physiologist, and physician, considered to be “the founder of pneumatic chemistry”; he is primarily remembered today for his ideas on spontaneous generation and his introduction of the word “gas” (from the Greek word chaos) into the vocabulary of scientists.]

67 [Martín Antonio del Río (born 17 May 1551, Antwerp; died 19 October 1608, Leuven), a Jesuit theologian of Spanish descent, author of Disquisitionum magicarum libri sex, in tres tomos partiti. Auctore Martino Del Rio, Societatis Jesu Presbytero (Leuven: Gerardus Rivius), a work on magic and the occult, first published in three parts from 1599 to 1600 ([18] + 102 + [15] + 374 +[20] p.; [14] + 373 + [24] p. + [1] pl. wood engr.; [10] + 340 + [16] p.; in-4°), and reprinted at least 20 times, making it one of the most popular books ever produced on the occult.]

68 [Jean Bodin (born 1530, Angers; died 1596, Laon), a French jurist and political philosopher, member of the Parlement of Paris and professor of law in Toulouse; he is best known for his theory of sovereignty and for his works on demonology.]

69 [Marie de Stassard or Maria (van) Stassaert, fl. 1567.] Usually, women have more preconceived ideas than men because they are less educated [M. de St.-Agy].

70 Some biographers say that he [van Helmont; see note 66, above] gave his possessions to his sister; but this is not very important [M. de St.-Agy].

71 [Elector of Cologne: among the numerous sixteenth-century individuals that held this title, it is difficult to say to whom Cuvier is referring.]

72 [Rudolph II, see Lesson 6, note 76.]

73 [Vilvoorde, a Belgian municipality in the Flemish province of Flemish Brabant.]

74 [Archeus or archaeus, a term used generally to refer to the lowest and most dense aspect of the astral plane that presides over the growth and continuation of all living beings; often referred to by Paracelsus (see Lesson 4, note 72) and those after him, such as Jan Baptist van Helmont (see note 66, above).]

75 [For Descartes, see Volume 1, Lesson 6, note 7.]

76 [Opuscula medica inaudita: I. De Lithiasi, II. De Febribus, III. De Humoribus Galeni, IV. De Peste, one of several treatises collected and edited by van Helmont’s son, Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont (born October 1614, Vilvoorde, Flemish Brabant; died December 1698), and published together under the title Ortus medicinae, vel opera et opuscula omnia, Amsterdam: Ludovicus Elsevir, 1648, 3 vols ([4] + 110 + [2] p.; 116 + [1] p.; 88 p.), in-4°.]

77 [Henry Cavendish (born 10 October 1731, Nice; died 24 February 1810, London), a British natural philosopher, scientist, and an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist; he is best remembered for his discovery of hydrogen or what he called “inflammable air,” describing its density and the formation of water upon its combustion.]

78 [Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (born 26 August 1743, Paris; died 8 May 1794, Paris, by guillotine), a French nobleman and chemist central to the eighteenth-century Chemical Revolution and a large influence on both the histories of chemistry and biology; he is widely considered to be the “Father of Modern Chemistry.”]

79 [For Stahl, see Lesson 9, note 88.]

Table des illustrations

Légende The alchemyst Ink on paper attributed to Philip Galle after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1558) National Gallery of Art.
URL http://books.openedition.org/mnhn/docannexe/image/2863/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M

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