The Man Whose Name Was A Poem - Poem by Paul Hartal
The man, a Swiss German,
who bore the colorful and poetic name of
Paracelsus Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus
Bombastus von Hohenheim was born in 1493
in the village of Einsiedeln.
Nine years later his family moved to Villach
in southern Austria where his father
worked as a physician.
The boy received
a solid humanistic and theological education
and at the age of 16 he enrolled
at the University of Basel to study medicine.
Six years later he obtained his doctorate
from the University of Ferrara in Italy.
A physician, botanist, astrologer, alchemist
and occultist, Dr. Paracelsus for a year
held the position of chair of medicine
at the University of Basel.
But he was a difficult person
and had a very independent mind.
Paracelsus constantly criticized his colleagues,
he attacked academic medicine,
he organized public burning of textbooks,
branding their authors as quacks and liars.
Earning the reputation
as a stubborn and arrogant slanderer,
Paracelsus eventually had to leave Basel.
And in 1530 the City of Nuremberg
prohibited the printing of his works.
Paracelsus became an itinerant physician.
His wanderings took him through Germany,
France, Spain and Hungary, and then
through Scandinavia, Poland and Russia.
Paracelsus was a pioneer of medicine.
He applied chemicals and
minerals in the treating of diseases.
He is credited with first naming
the element zinc and pioneering the use
of laudanum, an opium tincture,
which as a potent painkiller and
caugh suppressant was widely used
by physicians until the early 20th century.
Paracelsus learned about the human body
not only from books and observation but
also by experimentation.
Furthermore, he is credited as a founder of
toxicology, a discipline concerned with
the adverse effects of chemicals on living
organisms. He stressed the doctrine of
‘dosis facit venenum’, the dose makes
the poison, that is to say, a toxic substance
is harmless in a small dose and,
conversely, an ordinarily harmless
substance can be deadly in a large dose.
History has recorded among Paracelsus’
the systematic study of hydrotherapy,
especially the therapeutic powers and value
of the Alpine mineral springs.
He had also contributed
to the advancement of psychotherapy
in being the first in the clinical mentioning
of the unconscious. In the 20th century
the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung
was profoundly influenced by Paracelsus' work
and theorised that alchemic symbolism was
an expression of the collective human
Paracelsus died in Salzburg in 1541, aged 47.
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