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Theophratus von Hohenheim, also known as Paracelsus (a paradigm he

gave himself to represent his aspiration to exceed Celsus), was born in
1493 in Eindheim in Germany. His contributions to science extend over a
variety of fields; including chemistry, psychology and medicine. Many wellknown chemical terms and names, such as gas, zinc which he referred to
as zinke, alcohol and chemistry, were all introduced by Paracelsus.
Chemically speaking, his greater and more recognised contribution was his
discovery of the treatment of wounds using chemicals and minerals and
he is credited with the instigation of the use of chemical medicines. It
should be noted that Paracelsus hinted at nature providing cures but he
often contradicted this notion by responding that the herbs used at the
time lacked the necessary potency to be effective in the treatment of
diseases. The era of New Chemical Medicine was therefore born, with
chemicals and minerals now replacing herbs and plants, and through this
Paracelsus reinforced the application of inorganic salts, metals and
minerals as treatments. An example is the use of mercury in the treatment
of syphilis. His contributions also extend to medicine and toxicology as he
was recognised for stating the harm done by a substance depends on the
dose of the substance taken, a seemingly harmless substance can cause
harm when taken in a large dose. In line with this theory, he also
postulated that what makes a man ill, in small doses can also cure him-the
potential origins of homeopathy. During the era he live, people were
mainly treated based on soul-purification, it was believed gout was caused
by evil spirits, and cure all remedies, he was interested in finding direct
causes for illnesses and therefore incorporate the use of chemicals to treat
them specifically. He also suggested the use of iron to treat poor blood.
Paracelsus may also have unwittingly been the first scientist to detect the
presence of hydrogen after performing an experiment during which he
mixed sulphuric acid and iron fillings and noted that the resulting gas was
flammable. He observed effervescence on the surface of the metal
however due to his lack of understand of the product and the little he
wrote on hydrogen, credit for its discovery was awarded to Henry
From the miscellany of books on Paracelsus, it is clear that many of his
colleagues and acquaintances considered his rejection of traditional
medical practices and their work offensive, objectionable and at times a
deterrent in the acceptance of his theories. But his influence is still present
amongst iatrochemists and groups of scientists who still endeavour to
apply a greater chemical approach to medicine.He is also widely known for
his theory that some disease had psychological origins. He was a sound
believer of the bodys innate ability to heal itself and is considered as one
of the first scientists to have use the word unconscious in a
scientific/medical sense.

Paracelsus often tried to outperform fellow scientists, most famously Galen
and Celsus. He rejected Galens theory that health and disease were
affected by four humours, namely blood, yellow bile, bile and phlegm. He
instead presented a counter theory that there were in fact three humours:
salt (representing stability), sulphur (combustibility) and mercury
(liquidity). He believed a balance of these humours were integral to the
maintenance of optimal health and it is therefore important to have a
greater understanding of these elements. He therefore began using these
chemicals in the treatment of disease.