Jan Baptista Van Helmont
Helmont, Jan Baptista Van
Born in January 1579, in Brussels; died Dec. 30, 1644, in Vilvorde, near Brussels. Dutch naturalist, one of the representatives of iatrochemis-try.
Helmont was the first to conduct experiments in the nourishment processes of plants. His work became the foundation of the so-called aqueous theory of plant nourishment. Despite its inaccuracy, this theory regarded plant life as a process taking place totally within the realm of material forces and thus dealt a blow to idealistic and religious concepts. Helmont assumed that the decisive function in digestion was performed by the acid of stomach juices. Hence he proposed to use alkalis to treat diseases resulting from excess acids in the stomach. He introduced the term “gas” into chemistry. He held alchemistic positions on a number of questions; for example, he thought it possible to convert base metals, such as mercury and lead, into gold with the aid of the so-called philosopher’s stone. He recognized spontaneous generation, which at that time was a very progressive act. Helmont adhered to the vitalist concept that life processes are regulated by special “life spirits” (archai).
WORKSOrtus medicinae, new ed. Amsterdam, 1652.
REFERENCESMenshutkin, B. N. Khimiia i puti ee razvitiia, Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Spiess, G. A. J. B. van Helmont’s System der Medizin. Frankfurt am Main, 1840.