on October 2, 2014 | 09:57
Most people know Paracelsus today as the patron saint of pharmacies and drugstores, as the patron of clinics, as the namesake of various medicinal and herbal mixtures, or stamped on deserving medical medals. But who is the man who was so influential in medicine? When did Paracelsus live, what was his life like and what were his principles? Here you will find a summary of the most important facts.
Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim was probably born in Egg, a canton of Switzerland, in late 1493 or early 1494. He got his nickname or artist name while working as a field medic in some wars in Europe. Paracelsus is probably a Latinized form of his surname “Hohenheim”, because “celsus” means “imposing” when translated. The knowledge and work of Paracelsus are considered extremely complete. In addition to his work as a physician, he was also active as an alchemist, astrologer, mystic, lay theologian, and philosopher. The life of Paracelsus was mainly a wandering life moving between southern Germany and Switzerland, but also in many other countries in Europe. In his travels, Paracelsus came to know and appreciate ordinary people in particular. He left numerous records and books in German, most of which were not printed until after his death.
Brief biography of Paracelsus
Paracelsus was the son of the physician, natural scientist, and alchemist Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim and, after his mother’s early death in 1502, he moved with his father to Villach in Carinthia, where he established and ran a medical practice. In this way, the young Paracelsus received his first knowledge about medicine, mining and the art of cutting, known as chemistry in today’s language. At age 16 he began studying medicine at the University of Basel, followed by twelve years of wandering and stays with renowned alchemists such as Sigmund Füger von Schwaz and Abbot Bruno von Spanheim. In 1510 Paracelsus obtained the title of Bachelor of Medicine in Vienna. After an alleged short stay in Ferrara, Italy, to obtain a doctorate in surgery and internal medicine, probably in 1516, Paracelsus worked as a surgeon in many parts of Europe. The aforementioned name change from Theophrastus to Paracelsus also took place at this time. After Paracelsus was called to the Basle Council around 1525, he regularly exchanged ideas with humanists such as Erasmus von Rotterdam, Wolfgang Lachner, and Johannes Oekolampad. From 1527 to 1528 he taught as a physician at the Basel medical school. Contrary to the customs of the time, he gave the lectures in German instead of Latin, because: “The truth should only be taught in German.” Due to the fact that he rebelled against the authorities, Paracelsus had to flee Basel and fear for his life in the following years. To top it all, he publicly burned the books of Galen and Avicienna in Basel, on which the purely theoretical medical training was based at the time, and fled to Alsace to avoid threatened legal proceedings. In the following years of travel, Paracelsus wrote numerous medical works such as “Paramirum”, “Opus Paragranum” and the “Große Wundarzei” in two volumes, which unfortunately remained unfinished. The culmination of his work was the written work “Astronomia Magna”, completed in 1537, with a multitude of theological and metaphysical ideas, which, however, was published only thirty years after his death under the title “All Philosophia Sagax of the world great and small.” Paracelsus was not even 50 years old; he died on September 24, 1541 in Salzburg. Contrary to speculations of the time, the reason for his death was likely mercury poisoning.
The medical teaching of Paracelsus
Through his international hiking trails, Paracelsus came into contact with a wide variety of healing methods from different countries. Yet he spent his whole life to find a new healing art that is not based on books but on one’s own perception and experience – a spirit of inquiry that many personalities in science and literature refer to today. Particularly in the rationalistic age of the Enlightenment, this gave rise to the age-old attitude of human endeavor and discovery of facts. However, Paracelsus made his most important contribution in medicine, which he carried over from the Middle Ages to the modern era through the abundance of his medical, natural history, astrological, and theological writings. The knowledge and mastery of four sub-disciplines are indispensable for Paracelsus in addition to the grace of God for the successful practice of medical art: philosophy, astronomy, alchemy and proprietas (honesty).
Paracelsus as a pioneer of modern pharmaceutical science
Paracelsus was the first to recognize biological, chemical and physical processes in the human body and to conclude from this that diseases can be influenced by chemical means. Therefore, he is considered a pioneer of pharmaceutical chemistry: the chemistry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was based on his considerations and eventually led to modern pharmaceutical science. Paracelsus’s best-known thesis, which is still fully valid today, is: “The quantity alone produces the poison (single dose venenum facit).” Furthermore, Paracelsus also included the environment and the psyche of people in his diagnoses and considered diseases holistically, that is, he treated the causes and not just the symptoms. There are five main types of disease influences (Entia) to which, in your opinion, any disease can be traced:
Ens Astrorum / Ens Astrale (heavenly influences) Ens Veneni (“poison” absorbed by the body) Ens Naturale (predestination; constitution) Ens Spirituale (influence of “spirits”) Ens Dei (direct influence of God)
Even today, many know the name Paracelsus. Numerous clinics are not only named after the famous 16th century physician, but also a chain of alternative medical schools, acting as providers of training in naturopathy, psychotherapy, veterinary medicine, preventive medicine and wellness, are named after Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim. The Paracelsus Medal of the German medical profession is the highest honor awarded to German medical professionals.. It has been awarded every year since 1952 at the German Medical Congress to two to six physicians “who have made particular contributions to the reputation of the physician through exemplary medical attitude or through successful professional work or outstanding scientific achievements.” Furthermore, Paracelsus’ hometown, Villach, has awarded Paracelsoring every three years since 1952 for scientific and artistic achievements in the spirit and sense of Paracelsus. The golden ring shows the coats of arms of the Hohenheimers and the city of Villach. Since 1991, the largest German health fair has been organized in Wiesbaden under the name of Paracelsus.
Who would have thought that behind the name of Paracelsus there was a man of such importance to German medicine and pharmaceutical science? Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim was not only a man of extensive knowledge, but he also had his heart in the right place. He campaigned for the rights of ordinary people and taught students to trust their own experience. Anyone who was such a forward thinking thinker in the 16th century deserves to be able to read their name on medals, pharmacies, and hospital signs today.
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