Born: 17 December 1493

Died: 24 September 1541

Paracelsus was a Swiss alchemist, physician, astrologer, and philosopher who lived from November 11 or December 17, 1493, until September 24, 1541. He was born Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim but later changed his name to Paracelsus, which means “alongside or comparable to Celsus,” an early Roman physician. Observing the procedures of physicians, chemists, and spiritual healers in Egypt, Arabia, and the Holy Land during his travels, he used this knowledge for his studies. Rejecting Galen’s beliefs, which had served as the foundation for European medicine during the Middle Ages, Paracelsus argued that health was dependent on the harmony between man and nature, as well as chemical balances within the body. He developed the use of mercury to cure syphilis, recognized the significance of minerals in some disorders, coined the term “alcohol,” and called the element zinc.


In 1493, Paracelsus, the son of a Swabian father and a Swiss mother, was born in Sihlbrücke, near Einsiedeln, Switzerland. His paternal grandfather had fought in the Holy Lands as a commander of the Teutonic Knights. Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim studied metallurgy, alchemy, and medicine before becoming the physician at the Benedictine abbey of Einsiedeln, where his mother, Elsa, worked as a bound servant. Their only child was Paracelsus. When Paracelsus’ mother died when he was nine years old, his father relocated the family to Villach, Carinthia, where he served as city physician until he died in 1534.

Paracelsus later claimed that his father taught him about medicinal plants and minerals, as well as alchemy and the smelting and refining of ores. Paracelsus enrolled in the University of Basel at the age of sixteen and began studying alchemy, surgery, and medicine. Isaac Hollandus’ works were already familiar to him. Platonism, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astrology were all part of his curriculum, which was influenced by German humanists. He studied alchemy under Johannes Trithemius (1462–1516), Abbot of Sponheim, and metallurgy in Sigmund Fugger’s Schwaz labs.

Because of problems with his necromancy experiments, Paracelsus was compelled to leave Basel quickly in 1516. He began his journey by visiting numerous prestigious universities in Germany, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden.

He may have received his Ph.D. from the University of Ferrara, although it is unknown whether he ever finished his degree. He went to Russia, where he was kidnapped by the Tartars and became a favorite at the Grand Cham’s court. He traveled to Egypt, Arabia, and the Holy Land with Cham’s son on a formal visit to Constantinople. He sought out medical practitioners wherever he went, and he learned advanced procedures from Arab chemists that were unknown in Europe. “A doctor must seek out old wives, gypsy, sorcerers, wandering tribes, old thieves, and other such outlaws and receive lessons from them,” he later counseled his students.

He got his training as a surgeon in the Hapsburg forces, where he was able to investigate wound therapy. It was common to practice at the time to cauterize wounds with hot oil and apply various ointments, a procedure that frequently resulted in infection, amputation, or death. Paracelsus experimented after hearing soldiers remark that a wound healed better when the treatment was placed to the weapon that caused the wound rather than the wound itself.

“If you prevent infection, nature will cure the wound all by itself,” he concluded after observing that just cleansing and draining a wound was a more effective treatment than the traditional ointments.

Paracelsus returned to Strasbourg in 1526, where he joined the guild of surgeons and was appointed city physician of Basel, owing to the influence of theologian Johannes Oecolampadius and publisher Johannes Frobenius. At the University of Basel, this job had the task of lecturing on medicine. Paracelsus was a harsh critic of apothecaries, enraged the medical faculty, and enraged other medical practitioners.

He wrote a treatise in which he passionately attacked the usage of Galen’s and Avicenna’s doctrines, rejecting them as useless and claiming that individuals who followed them could not effectively diagnose diseases. The outraged medical faculty banned Paracelsus from speaking, but he insisted on being permitted to do so, claiming that he had never asked for permission. He gave his lectures in German rather than Latin, and he presented new concepts about medicine preparation, the use of minerals to cure illness, and disease diagnosis using urine and pulse analyses.

He burnt the Canon of Avicenna, then the classic medical treatise, in a public square during the students’ midsummer celebration of St. John’s Day to indicate his disapproval of it. He was sentenced to prison after losing a court fight over a medical cost he had charged a patient. He left Basel in the middle of the night, only eight months after starting teaching, and traveled to Colmar. He spent the rest of his life traveling over Europe, practicing medicine when he could, and writing several works.

In 1529, he was in Nuremberg, then Beritzhausen and Amberg; in 1531, he was in St. Gall, then Innsbruck; in 1534, he was in Sterzing and Meran; in 1535, he was in Bad Pfäffers, Augsburg; and in 1537, he was in Vienna, Presburg, and Villach. In Nuremberg in 1530, he attracted the fury of the medical establishment, yet he successfully cured numerous cases of elephantiasis. Die Grosse Wundartzney (The Great Surgery Book) was published in 1536, and it gained him some fame. He was invited to Salzburg, Austria, by the Prince Palatine, Duke Ernst of Bavaria, who was interested in alchemy and died in a modest chamber at the White Horse Inn there in 1541 after a brief illness.

At his desire, his corpse was placed in St. Sebastian’s cemetery. In 1752, an unknown person erected a tomb in the doorway of St. Sebastian’s Church. The father of Paracelsus is depicted in a portrait on the monument.

Thought and works

Some saw Paracelsus as a magician because of his flamboyant character, reports of dramatic cures, and teachings on alchemy and astrology, and he is still connected with occult practices today. Paracelsus himself rejected supernatural magic, emphasizing instead God’s gift of Nature with magical healing powers. His art demonstrates a high level of experimentation and observation. His effect was felt in Wittenberg and a few German schools during his lifetime, but he was mostly ignored in Italy, but his many contributions to medicine and pharmacology have recently been recognized.


The majority of Paracelsus’ works were dictated to him, and he frequently offered them to his acquaintances to have printed, resulting in his name being misused on occasion. It’s important to distinguish between works credited to Paracelsus that were authored by him and those that were falsely assigned to him. His writing style was straightforward, clear, and straightforward. Alber. von Haller, “Bibliotheca medicin practica,” II (Basle, 1777, 2–12), contains a complete inventory of Paracelsus’ authentic and unauthentic texts. “Opus Paramirum” I, II (containing Paracelsus’ system); “Drei Bücher von den Franzosen” (a treatise on syphilis and venereal disorders); and “Grosse Wundarznei, über das Bad Pfäffers, über die Pest in Sterzing” are among his most noteworthy works (The Great Surgery Book).

Contributions to Medicine

In his theory of medicine, Paracelsus did not include the study of human anatomy, which was popular at the time in Italy as part of the humanist movement. As a result, his hypothesis was incomplete, and no important advances in the field of medicine were made as a result. He did, however, contribute in a variety of ways. “The physician should proceed from external things, not from man,” said Paracelsus, who felt that a physician should begin a diagnosis with the cause rather than the body itself. He was a firm believer in treating the sickness as a whole rather than simply the symptoms.

Galenic theory and Paracelsus

The medical beliefs of Galen, according to which all diseases are caused by an imbalance of the four senses of humor in the body: blood, phlegm, yellow and black gall, were closely adhered to in medieval medicine (humoral pathology). Correcting the imbalance, which often involves bleeding, purging, or sweating can help to restore health. Ens Astrium (cosmic influences, such as climate and geographical location); ens Venini (toxic substances, such as the causes of contagious diseases, infections, and diseases caused by poor diet or environmental poisons); ens naturale et spiritual (defective physical or mental constitution); and ens deale (pathological changes in the body caused by external entities) were all rejected by Paracelsus (an affliction sent by Providence). Diseases such as rheumatism, gout, and dropsy, which were caused by the over-accumulation of harmful substances in the body, should be treated by expelling the poisons and restoring the vital functions of the organs.

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