Paracelsus, Greatest Alchemist Of All Time

Paracelsus was considered the greatest alchemist and healer of his age. He used chemical and homeopathic remedies to cure diseases like the black plague.

Alchemy - an ancient science that combines astrology on one level and early chemistry on the other. The alchemist's goal - to change or "transmutate" one element into another. This change wasn't necessarily chemical. Alchemists also sought ways to prolong life, not to mention discover the elusive "fountain of youth". Alchemy reached its heyday during the Medieval and Renaissance ages when alchemists major aim was to turn base metals like mercury, copper, silver and lead into gold. Aristotle was the first to believe that everything that is physical is based on four elements: water, earth, air and fire. And that by altering that mix one element could be transformed into another. The Egyptians, the Arabs, the Romans, the Chinese and the Hindus all transcribed to Aristotle's basic theory and experimented with many elements, particularly mercury, in their quest to mass produce gold. But it wasn't until the 1930's, when scientists began studying the relationship of protons, neutrons, and electrons, that they achieved success in transmutating one element into another. Gold was not successfully made in a laboratory until the 1960's and even then only in the tiniest quantity -- a single atom.

The European alchemists refined Aristotle's theory to 3 basic elements: sulphur, which represents the male soul, mercury, the female spirit, and salt, the body. Before transmutation occurred, however, the alchemists made sure all their astrological calculations were correct. Discovering the recipe for gold soon became an obsession for many practising alchemists. Monarchs in every realm in Europe began financing these quests in the remote hope they'd become richer than they already were. Alchemists also began experimenting with highly corrosive or volatile substances like nitric and sulphuric acid, which tended to blow up if handled or mixed incorrectly.

One of the greatest alchemists the Renaissance age produced was named Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim. He was born in Switzerland in 1493 to a German doctor and his wife. After graduating from college at age 17, Philippus decided to change his name to "Paracelsus" after the Roman doctor, Celcus. As a young student Paracelsus was considered brilliant and excelled in all his studies, particularly in chemistry and medicine. He earned a number of doctorates and degrees from renowned universities and soon gained a reputation for his great conceit. He was known to call his professors and contemporaries to task regularly, at length and in public, deriding their hypotheses and methods, which did little endear him to either group.

Proclaiming that he could not learn everything he needed to know in colleges and universities, Paracelsus set out to wander Europe, England, Russia and the Middle East. He's said to have trained with adepts in Constantinople, Egypt and the Holy Land and from them learned the principles of ancient alchemy. He also re-introduced the concepts of Hermetic medicine to the public, an equally ancient belief based on the relationship of cosmology and the soul. For a time he worked as an army surgeon, often using unheard of methods and cures. Many of them were based on his staunch belief that natural or "homeopathic" remedies were the only way to cure the diseases and ills of his age. In many instances his concoctions, particularly those for infections and the plague, were more successful than the old methods he'd been taught at university and that were still being universally used by most physicians. The public embraced Parcelsus as a great healer. His contemporaries did not. While students flocked to his classes and lectures and became staunch disciples of his work and doctrines, the list of noted doctors and scholars Paracelsus alienated with his pompous diatribes, cutting criticisms and public book burnings continued to grow.

Paracelsus healing achievements grew over the next decade and he earned various prestigious posts, large amounts of money and was even consulted by royalty. But because he couldn't refrain from criticising and challenging others' theories, he never managed to keep a permanent position. Often he was physically threatened and forced to move to a new location. This lifestyle did not stop him from continuing to make unheard of strides in medicine and in successfully treating conditions like gout and syphilis. As an accomplished alchemist, Paracelsus also experimented with and used elements like mercury, iron, sulphur and zinc. He was the first physician to identify the direct cause of certain diseases and common afflictions and incorporate chemistry to cure or control them. Paracelsus also wrote many articles and treatise, his most renowned work the "Der Grossen Wundartzney", or "The Great Surgery Book".

In 1541 Paracelsus was invited to Salzburg, Austria, but was found dead within 6 months of his arrival. Whether the famous alchemist died of natural causes, poisoned drink, or outright murder, possibly committed by one or more of his long-time rivals or enemies, was never substantiated. His loyal public greatly mourned Paracelsus passing and revered the great alchemist's memory for decades after his mysterious death.

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