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Paracelsus (d. 1541)

Born bout 1493 near Zurich, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim was only later (from about 1529) called Paracelsus, an honorific name meaning 'greater than Celsus' - that is, greater than the 1st-century AD Roman polymath. Paracelsus studied alchemy with a leading alchemist of his day and was an apprentice in Austrian mines where he learned metallurgical practices. He at one time lectured on medicine at the University of Basel, where he ignored the ancient and acknowledged authorities such as Galen and Avicenna and spoke in the vernacular Swiss-German dialter rather than the Latin customarily used in learned circles. After incurring the wrath of authorities in Basel, he traveled extensively and led a life of controversy. He died in 1541 in his late forties, after having written a large number of writings in German on philosophical, scientific, and medical topics. In the decades following his death, an influential movement developed among European physicians and naturalists devoted to the Paracelsian chemical philosophy and its application to medicine. The concept of disease was redefined and the earlier Galenic humoral explanations rejected. With a new idea of disease went a changing therapy. All potential sources of material medica were searched for new items, and the employment of mineral acids, inorganic salts, and truly chemical procedures in the production of remedies became the hallmark of Paracelsian medical chemistry.

For a general guide to the vast literature on Paracelsus and the Paracelsians, see Walter Pagel, 'Paracelsus' in DSB, vol. 10, pp. 304-313; Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance (Basel: S. Karger,1958); Allen G. Debus, The Chemical Philosophy: Paracelsian Science and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, 2 vols. (New York: Science History Publications, 1977); and Walter Pagel, The Smiling Spleen: Paracelsianism in Storm and Stress (Basel: S. Karger, 1984).

Paul of Aegina (mid 7th century AD)

The Greek physician Paul of Aegina lived in the first half of the seventh century AD and might possibly have been in Alexandria when it fell to the Arabs in 642. He composed a comprehensive medical encyclopaedia that was translated into Arabic in the ninth century and widely used by Islamic physicians. The sixth book of his medical compendium was concerned with surgery and became a model for subsequent discourses on the subject.

For his medical writings as they were known in Arabic, see Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 86-87; Sezgin GAS III, p. 168-170. For an English translation of the medical encyclopedia by Paul of Aegina, see, The Seven Books of Paulus Aegineta, trns. by Francis Adams (London: Sydenham Society, 1844-1847).

Philotimos (300-260 B.C.)

The Greek scholar Philotimos (or Phylotimos) was a pupil of Praxagoras of Cos. In Arabic he was called Fulutimus, Fulatis, or Falatis, and he is cited by several Arabic sources as an authority on foodstuffs. In an Arabic veterinary treatise now at NLM (MS A 90, item 2) he is cited as an authority.

See Sezgin, GAS III, p. 52 Ullmann, Medizin, p. 199, note 3.

Plato (c. 429-347 BC)

A Greek philosopher who taught at a place near the grove of Academus, about a mile outside the wall of Athens. The school established there became known as the Academy and continued until its dissolution by Justinian in 529.

See article "Plato" in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. M. Cary and others (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949, reprinted 1961), p. 698-700. For knowledge of Plato's writings amongst Islamic physicians, see Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 48-49.

Polemon of Laodicea (d. ca. 145 AD)

Polemon wrote in Greek the fundamental treatise on physiognomy. It was translated into Arabic and used by virtually all subsequent Islamic writers on the subject.

For the Arabic version of his work preserved today, see Sezgin, GAS III, p. 352-3, and Toufic Fahd, La divination arabe: etudes religieuses, sociologiques et folkloriques sur le milieu natif de l'Islam (Strasbourg: Université de Strasbourg, Faculté des Letters et Sciences Humaines, 1966), pp. 384-386. For his influence in the Greek work, see Tamsyn S. Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine under the Roman Empire (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.

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