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Debus-Paracelsian Compromise in Elizabethan England

Debus-Paracelsian Compromise in Elizabethan England

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Published by voarchadumicus
Originally published in : Ambix 8 (1960), pp. 71-97.
Originally published in : Ambix 8 (1960), pp. 71-97.

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PARACELSIAN
COMPROMISE
INELIZABETHAN
ENGLAND
7
1
THE
PARACELSIANCOMPROMISE
IN
ELIZABETHAN
ENGLAND
By
ALLEN
G.DEBUS*
WHEN
.Paracelsus
attacked
theancientmedicalauthorities
at
Basel
in
15
2
7,
and
had
theaudacity
to
throw
the
Canon
ofAvicennaintotheSt.
John's
day
bonfire,hestruckadramaticblowforanewmedicinewhichwastoembroil
the
physicians
of
Europeincontroversiesfor
the
nextcentury
and
ahalf
1.
The
focalpointofthisstrugglewastheuseofchemicaltherapy,whichwasconsideredtobe
the
mostinsidiousinnovation
by
mostGalenists.However,
at
thesametimetherewasdisagreementover
the
comprehensivetheoriesof
the
Swissreformer,
and
the
history
of
thisideologicalconflictisa
matter
ofconsiderableimportancein
the
understanding
of
the
ScientificRevolution,since,tomany
ob
serversin
the
latter
years
of
the
r6th
century,
the
workofParacelsusseemedmoredangerous
thanthat
ofCopernicus
2
In
recentyears,somestudiesbearingonthisprobleminrelation
toits
Englishphase,haveappearedfromGeorgUrdang
andPaul
H.
Kochel-3.
Thesepapersrepresentsignificantcontributionsto
the
historyof
the
Paracelsians,
and
yet
theirfindingsleavesomequestionsstillunanswered.
What,
for
*HistoryofScience,
Widener
18S-9,
Harvard
University,Cambridge38,Mass.,U.S.A.This
study
wascompleted
during
the
tenureofa
joint
Sodal
ScienceResearch
Couneil
and.
F'Ulbrightfellowship
at
UniversityCollege,Londol1.J,Op.the
question
of
the
burning
of
the
Canon
by
Paracelsus,see
Walter
Pagel,
Para
cel$~in13asel,
1958,
20f.,
andLynn
Thorndike,
AHistory
01
Magicand
Experi111,entaZ
Science,
New~Q~k,
X941,
v,
438.
Prof.PagelcitesSebastian
Franck's
IS31
referenceto
the
event.
II
In
JÖhn
Donne's
Ignatius
His
Conelave,
1610,
the
innovationsofParacelsus
are
judged
to
merit
more
reward
from
Satan
than
thoseofCopernicus.J
ohn
Donne,
CampletePaetryandSeleäedProse,
Bloomsbury,
1929,362-9.
Note
also
the
parallelwhichis
dravm
between
thework
ofCopernicus
and
Paracelsus
by"R.B.
esq:'
[?
Robert
Bostocke],
and
is
discussedbelow.
a
GeorgUrdang,
"How
Chemieals
entered
the
OfficialPharmacopoeias",
Wiscansin
Academy
01
Science,
Arts
andLetters,Madison,
1949,
val.
39,
IIS-2S,
also
printed
inthe
Archives
I1~ternationales
d'histoire
des
Seien
ces,
7,
1954,
3°3-14
fromwhichallcitations
will
be
made.
Paul
H.
Kocher,
"Paracelsan
Medicine
inEngland
(ca.
1570-1600)",
]o'urnal
01
the
History
01
Medicine,
2,
1947,4S1-80.
PaulH.
Kocher,
"Jolm
Hester,
Paracelsan
(IS76-93)",
]osephQuincy
Adams
MemorialStudies
(ed.
James
G.
McManaway,Giles
E.
Dawson,
EdwinE.
Willoughby),Washington,
1948,621-38.
PaulH.
Kocher,
scienee
and
Religion
in
EZizabethan
Engla'tZd,
San
Marino,Calif.,
1953.
Seealso
Robert
P.
Multhauf,
IIMedicaJ.
Chemistry
and
the
Paracelsians",
B~~lletin
01
theHistory
01
Medicine,
28,
1954.
Iox"'z6.
 
7
2
ALLENG.
DEBUS
instance,was
the
role
of
theRoyalCollegeofPhysiciansin
the
introduction
of
Paracelsism
in
England?ProfessorKocherstates
that
thisorganizationwas"tough-minded,clannish,andreactionary"anddecidedlyagainst
the
newremedies
4
On
theotherhand,ProfessorUrdanghasshown
that
one-third
of
the
members
of
the
Pharmacopoeiacommitteeestablished
bythe
Collegein
I5
89
had
graduatedfromthoseEuropeanuniversitieswhichledin
the
promulgationofchemicaltherapy,and
not
one
of
them
had
graduatedfromPariswhichwas'thechiefstrongholdof
the
mostconservativeGalenists
5
HisstudyoftheproposedpharmacopoeiaofI585wouldcertainlyindicate
that
the
mostinfluential'medicalgroupinEnglandwasnotopposedto"Paracelsian"remedies.
But
what
is
meant
by
the
broadtermttparacelsian"?BothProfessorsUrdangandKocherareprimarilyinterestedin
the
introductionofchemicaltherapy,andsinceParacelsuswasconsideredtheleaderofthisgroupinthe
I6th
century,
they
apply
the
nametotheproponentsofchemicalmedicines
6
Surelythisisanadmissibleuseoftheword,
but
it
isnecessarytokeepinmind
that
Paracelsianremedieswere
but
asmall
part
of
the
Paracelsiansystem.Therewas
as
much,ifnotmore,disagreementoverthecomprehensivetheoriesofParacelsus,astherewasoverhispracticalreforms.Thereisaneed,then,todiscuss
the
work
of
hisfollowersonseverallevels.ThoseinterestedinthetheoreticalworkofParacelsusoften
paid
littleattention
to
hispracticalmedicalreforms.Thoseinterestedin
the
latter,hO\vever,were
not
simplylimited
to
those\\'howished
tO
utilizechemicallypreparedmedicines,sincetherewas
at
thesametimeatendencytoapplychemicalInethodstootherpurposessuch
as
urinalysis,
and
the
analysis
of
mineralwaters.
Even
acursoryglance
at
Suclhoff's
Versucheiner]{ritil?
der
Pa,'acelsischet~
Schriften
shows
that
by
the
timeof
the
death
of
theSwissreformerin
I541,
that
onlyasmallfractionof
the
Paracelsiancorpus
had
beenpublished.However,after
that
datehisworksbegan
to
bepublishedineverincreasingnumbers,andas
the
traditionalmedicalmenbegantorealizethcÜ'nplicationsofParacelsus'
attack
onGalen,hiscommentatorAvicenna,ancltheotherancients,
they
immediatelybegan
to
defendtheir
n~liance
onthesetimehonouredauthorities.Thusbegan
the
mostmomentousmedicaldispute
of
the
ScientificRevolution,andbecauseParacelsushadclemanded
that
alchemyshouldexistfor
the
benefit
of
meclicinealone,
it
was
toinfiuenceprofoundly
4
Kocher,
Adams
MemorialStud-ies,
623.Seealsohisdisctlssiononpage472ofhisarticle
in
the
Journal
0/
the
History
0/
Medicine.
15
Urdang,
ap.cit.,305.
6
Prof.Kocherdoesdistinguishbetweell
the
workofGesneranel
P<~rac{~lsus,
and
he
states
that
Gesner
was
the
"primemover"ofchemicalmedicine
in
Ellglandin
its
earlystages.Kocher,
Journal
0/
the
History0/1I1edici1'te,
2,
455.
 
THE
PARACELSIAN
COMPROMISE
IN
ELIZABETHANENGLAND
73
thedevelopmentofchemistry.Thefirstcomprehensivestatementof
the
viewsof
the
Galenistsseemsto
ha
vebeenthe
Disputationes
de
MedicinaNovaParacelsi
(4
parts,Basel,
1572-3),
of
ThomasErastus,whichwascommissioned
by
theDukeofSaxonyin
15727.
But
ifthephysiciansonthecontinentwerealreadyindispute
over
the
relativemerits
of
the
oldandnewmedicinesshortlyafter
the
middleof
the
century,theEnglishwereasyetuntouched
by
thismedicalheresy.OneofthefoundersofEnglishhumanism,ThomasLinacre,was
not
only
the
guidinglightof
the
RoyalCollegeofPhysicians
at
itsinceptionin
1518,
but
hewasalsotheenthusiasticcompilerofdefinitiveeditions
of
the
ancients.Similarly,
the
famous
J
ohnCaiuspublisheclcommentariesonGalenandHippocrates,
even
thoughhewasanintimatefriend
of
ConraclGesnerwhowasone
of
the
independentGermanproponents
of
chemicalremedies.Caius
had
lived
in
the
samehousewithVesaliuswhilestudying
at
Padua,
and
he
had
stoppedforatime
at
Baselonhiswayback
to
Englandwherehe
must
haveobtailledsomeinformationon
the
teachingsofthelatelydeceasedParacelsus,
but
there
isnothinginhiswritings
to
showanyacquaintancewitheitherVesalian
anatomy
orParacelsian
th
eory
8.
But
despitethisseeminglack
of
interestin
the
Para-
celsiancontroversyon
the
contil1ent,muchofwhatwasnewdid
appear
in
England.
Parts
ofthe
De
humani
corporis
]abrica
appearedwithinafew
years
afteritsfirstedition
(1543)
undertheauthorship
of
ThomasGeminus;
andthe
surgicaladvancesofAmbroisePareweremadeavailable
~n
England
through
theworks
of
ThomasGaleand
\:Villiam
Clowes
9
Andthough
the
workofParacelsusandhisdisciples
dicl
not
yetissuefromtheEnglishpresses,tomesonchemicalremecliesanelmethodswereavailablefrom
the
Englishbookdealers.HieronymusBrunschwig'sbook
of
distillationwas°Englishecl"
by
LawrenceAndrewein
1527,
and
while
it
combined
the
functionof
an
herbaI
with
that
of
achemical
text,it
brought
to
light
the
view
of
the
author
that
distilledremedieswürefarmorepotent
than
the
herbsthemselves
1o
ThomasH.aynalde's
C01npentl'iO'l/;s
declaration
01
the
vertues0]aLateli
z'nuented
oUe,
Venice,
!5S!,
wasanearlymOllographonachemicalremedy,
7
Karl
Sudhoff,
Vel'S2tch
einerKritik
der
Echtheit
der
Pa,yacelsisclum
Schrißen
(2
vols.,BerUn,
1894,1899),
1,
217.
8
John
Caius,M.D.,
1'!Ie
Works
0/
]olm
Cai1tS,
.MI.D.,
Second1"ounder
0/
Gonville
a,1~d
CaiusCollege
andlvlastcr
of
Ihe
Collt'gt~,
I.559-I573.
With
a
MCl1zoir
0/
his
Li/e
l)y
]OkH
Venn,
sc.n.,
cd.
E.
S.
Roberts,
Cumbridgtl,1912,
,5fI.
9
S.V.Larkey,
J1Iledical
Knowledgc
in
Tudor
England
as
Displayed
in
an
E~hibitio'1'l.
0/
BooksandJ.,fanuscYipts,
San
Marino,
Ca.lif.,
1935,5.
10
HieronymusBrunschwig,
The
vertuose
lJo/~e
of
distyllacyon
...
,
tr.
L.
Anc1rewe,
London,
15
2
7.

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