Iatrochemistry

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Iatrochemistry

 

a school of the natural sciences and medicine that arose in the 16th century. Iatrochemists regarded the most important cause of diseases to be disturbances in the chemical processes within the body; they consequently sought chemical agents to cure the diseases.

The origin and development of iatrochemistry, which made its greatest gains in Germany and the Netherlands, are linked with the careers of Paracelsus, J. B. van Helmont, and the physician and anatomist F. Sylvius (1614–72); Sylvius formulated the principal tenets of iatrochemistry and founded the first medical laboratory for analysis, at the University of Leiden. Iatrochemists paid particular attention to the study of digestion and of such glands as the sex glands. They distinguished between “acidic” and “basic” diseases. In essence, iatrochemistry introduced a scientific (chemical) basis for the theory of humoral pathology.

In his criticism of iatrochemistry, R. Boyle argued that chemistry has the independent task of determining the composition of substances, a process that also enriches medicine. Iatrochemistry, which made a positive contribution to the struggle against the dogmas of medieval scholastic medicine, ceased to exist as a school of medicine in the second half of the 18th century.

P. E. ZABLUDOVSKII