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J.B. Van Helmont’s Concept of ‘Sulphurs’ as Universal Medicines

19.06.2023 | 16:00
“Helmontius Ecstaticus”, Heinrich Cohausen (1731)

“Helmontius Ecstaticus”, Heinrich Cohausen (1731)
Bildquelle: Worth Library, Dublin, used with permission.

Vortrag von Dr. Georgiana Hedesan, Oxford im Rahmen der Vorlesungsreihe „Metabolisms of Matter“


The Flemish physician and philosopher Jan Baptist Van Helmont (1579–1644) has often been termed as the chief follower and interpreter of Paracelsus (Theophrastus von Hohenheim, 1493–1541). In fact, matters are more nuanced: while his early manuscripts show that he was an enthusiastic supporter of Paracelsus, he became much more reserved in his later writings. Even so, Van Helmont spent a great deal of effort trying to master what he called ‘the arcana of Paracelsus’, that is, his universal medicines. In doing so, he developed his theory of universal medicines as being ‘sulphurs’ – volatile spirits extracted from metals, minerals, but also plants. His conceptualization was a complex mixture of traditional mercury-sulphur alchemical theory, Geberian development, and Paracelsus’s own views. In the present talk I will show how Van Helmont envisaged the extraction of ‘sulphurs’ from different substances to produce Paracelsus’s universal medicines.   

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Concept and organization: Carmen Schmechel, DFG Grant no. 432256662

Format: Hybrid (per Webex)
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