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216 × 138 × 20 mm
216 pages
20 illustrations, 10 in colour
16 Sep 2019
Renaissance Lives

Paracelsus An Alchemical Life Bruce T. Moran

Throughout his controversial life the alchemist, physician and social radical known as Paracelsus combined traditions that were magical and empirical, scholarly and folk, learned and artisanal. He endorsed both Catholic and Reformation beliefs, but believed devoutly in a female deity. He travelled constantly, learning and teaching a new form of medicine based on the experience of miners, bathers, alchemists, midwives, barber-surgeons and executioners. He argued for changes in the way the body was understood, how disease was defined and how treatments were created, but he was also moved by mystical speculations, an alchemical view of nature and an intriguing concept of creation.

Bruce T. Moran tells the story of how alchemy refashioned medical practice, and brings to light the ideas, workings and major texts of an important Renaissance figure, showing how his tenacity and endurance changed the medical world for the better, and brought new perspectives to the study of nature.

‘This fascinating book by Moran constitutes a rich and detailed biographical study of the life and character of Theophrastus von Hohenheim (aka, Paracelsus, 1493–1541), a truly unique Renaissance man whose interests included mysticism, astrology, medicine, and alchemy. Moran paints a vivid picture of Paracelsus as a physician-alchemist and itinerant traveler of both natural and supernatural worlds, detailing how these worlds intersect. In many ways this book is much more than an account of the alchemical life of Pararcelsus, as it also delves deep into the complex period of the early Renaissance and its struggle to shed its medieval past. Unlike many other biographical accounts of the accomplishments of Paracelsus, which tend to depict him as somewhat of a charlatan, Moran tries to present a positive picture of a sincere scholar in search of a reformist view of the nature of medicine. Moran has produced an excellent book that is both historically informative and narratively engaging. Replete with wonderful illustrations, it will surely appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘For those who have spent considerable time with Paracelsus and his ideas, as has Moran, this book is a deeply personal essay about both its subject and its readers, bringing to bear the results of long contemplation of Paracelsus’ writings and gems from recent German scholarship . . . This attractively made book, illustrated with a reproduced image of a painted-panel portrait of Paracelsus on the cover, which artistically places the man in the Wittenberg Reformation, beckons the reader who has not met Theophrastus Paracelsus to do so. But it is also rewarding for those familiar with the historical figure, offering an occasion on which to contemplate ourselves and reflect on exactly why we find him so ineluctably fascinating.’ — Social History of Medicine

‘Marked by an admirable even-handedness and genuine human curiosity, Moran carefully places back the life and ideas of Paracelsus into the context of Renaissance culture and natural philosophy. Moran’s prose is both accessible and engaging, and he does a wonderful job taking his readers back to a time that was very different from ours – a world that was saturated with wonder and magic, and a deep faith in the interconnectedness of mind and matter.’ — Forbidden Histories

‘Written in an impressive style, the author strives to present the reader with a vivid picture of the temporal and medico-historical environment of this fascinating Renaissance thinker. Thus, the book not only presents an introductory biography of Paracelsus, but also outlines the state of science and medicine at the turn from the Middle Ages to modern times in an exemplary manner . . . Moran has succeeded in writing a captivating and extremely well-written short biography of Paracelsus, covering his life, his teachings and his historical context. The book will be read with profit by the novice as well as the expert.’ — Metascience

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Bruce T. Moran is Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is Editor of Ambix: the Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry and the author of Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry and the Scientific Revolution (2005) and Andreas Libavius and the Transformation of Alchemy (2007).

Introduction: Bones

1 Medicine Lost in a Labyrinth and the Defence of Defiant Healing
2 Seeing through the Body: Nature, Disease and What the True Physician Must Know
3 The Alchemy of Things in the Making: Medicines as Poisons and Poisons as Medicines
4 Pursuing the Arts Where God Has Placed Them: On the Road for the Sake of Learning
5 ‘I Am Ashamed of Medicine’: Love, Labour and the Spirit of Christ in the Transformation of the Secular World
6 Invisible Beings and Invisible Diseases: Magic and Insanity in an Age of Faith
7 Inventing Paracelsus: The Use and Abuse of a Renaissance Life

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Photo Acknowledgements