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Journal > Volumes > 43 (2012) / 3 (Autumn)
New Light on Antiparacelsianism (c. 1570– 1610): The Medical Republic of Letters and the Idea of Progress in Science
Tilmann Walter
Universität Würzburg

When new editions of the writings of Paracelsus (1493– 1541) were published in the early 1560s, this “Paracelsian revival” provoked among the erudite a heated debate about the advantages and disadvantages of his medical system that found its culmination in 1571 with the first volume of Thomas Erastus’s (1524– 83) Disputationum de medicina nova Paracelsi. Erastus conceded openly that his book was mainly intended as part of his religious campaign against heresy and sorcery. The work was controversial among physicians and Paracelsus’s professed followers because Erastus refused to take seriously the pharmacological aspects of Paracelsus’s new medicine that relied on the experimental methods of alchemy or “chymistry.” A close analysis of medical letters, especially those written by physicians commonly considered as Antiparacelsians, reveals a wide variety of attitudes towards the new medicine of Paracelsus. Both Paracelsians and Antiparacelsians believed, however, that there was constant progress in the field of medicine and that their knowledge and experimental methods were far better than those of all— even classical— times.

Pages: 701 - 725