Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Paracelsus, Philippus Aureolus


(pseudonym of Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim). Born 1493, in Ein-siedeln (Canton Schwyz), Switzerland; died Sept. 24, 1541, in Salzburg. Renaissance physician; “world’s first professor of chemistry,” according to A. I. Herzen.

Paracelsus was educated in Ferrara, Italy. About 1515 he became a physician, and in 1526 he was named professor at the University of Basel and municipal physician for that city. He traveled widely throughout Europe. He was a strong opponent of scholastic medicine and the blind respect shown at the time for the authority of Galen; in their stead he promoted scientific observation and experimentation. Paracelsus rejected the ancient theory of the four humors of the human body and believed that all processes in the body are chemical. He studied the therapeutic action of various chemical elements and compounds. By bringing chemistry closer to medicine, Paracelsus was one of the founders of iatrochemistry. He isolated drugs from plants to make tinctures, extracts, and elixirs. He developed the concept of drug dosage, which was new at the time, and used mineral springs for therapeutic purposes. He also pointed out the need for discovering specific medicines to treat particular diseases, for example, mercury in the treatment of syphilis.

Paracelsus’ materialist, though primitive, views and practical work were not free from medieval mysticism and religion. He developed the theory of the “archaeus,” the highest spiritual principle that apparently regulates the body’s activity.


Sdmtliche Werke, section 1, vols. 1–14. Munich-Jena, 1922–36. Section 2, vols. 4–5: Wiesbaden, 1955–56.


Proskuriakov, V. M. Paratsel’s. Moscow, 1935.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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