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Paracelsus, Five Hundred Years: Three American Exhibits


A 500th Anniversary Celebration

Cover of the exhibit brochure feature a portrait of Paracelsus surrounded by various philosophical symbols, including his famous sword.

by Allen G. Debus
Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine
The University of Chicago

Paracelsus (1493-1541), more properly Theophrastus Phillippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, was born in Einsiedeln, Switzerland in 1493, one year after Columbus' first voyage to the New World. He was a contemporary of Nicholas Copernicus, Martin Luther, Leonardo da Vinci and a host of other figures we associate with the shattering of medieval thought and the birth of the modern world.

In fact, Paracelsus played a part in this change no less than the others. During his lifetime he was called by some the "Luther of Medicine" and the scientific debates of the late sixteenth century were centered more frequently on the innovations of Paracelsus than they were on the heliocentric astronomy of Copernicus.