Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/599

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593
A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY HOAX

element which gives volatility, sulphur as that which burns, and salt as that which neither burns nor volatilizes in the heat.

Paracelsus also used and advocated the use of many metallic preparations for medicines, as preparations of mercury, antimony, lead and arsenic. He recognized the poisonous character of them when used in excess, but emphasizes that poisons may be used to advantage in medicine in proper doses.

These and similar announcements scattered through his writings marked Paracelsus as a chemist of importance, if they were derived from his own experience, and not borrowed from some other source.

But Paracelsus was a physician who had incurred the antagonism and enmity of the great majority of the orthodox medical profession. He had repudiated the doctrines of Galen and Avicenna, their almost sacred authorities. He held their knowledge up to contempt in lecture and in writings and savagely attacked the practises and the ethics of the profession. Their opposition he met with arrogant defiance. As his following increased, the warfare between the Galenists and the Paracelsists increased in bitterness, and for a century after his death the contest continued with bitterness. The result was a partial victory for the chemical medicines introduced by Paracelsus, but there also resulted a gradual discrediting of Paracelsus by the growth of a mass of legends derogatory of his ability and character, most of which have since been shown to be baseless, but which his faults and weaknesses served to make credible. While this warfare was still at its height, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, there appeared a number of printed books, published by Johann Thölde, purporting to be from old manuscripts and to be written by a monk of the Benedictine order—Basilius Valentinus. By far the most important of these was the "Triumph-wagen des Antimons," or "Triumphal Chariot of Antimony," (1604), which contained, with much that was mystical and obscure, as was the fashion of most chemical literature of the time, nevertheless a remarkably clear treatment of the preparation and properties of many compounds of antimony, and of their application to medicine. This work attracted deserved attention, and other works which appeared under the same author's name about the same time and later shared in this popularity. That all of these were by the same hand as the "Chariot" is certainly not true, especially the later publications.

It was soon noticed that nearly all the above mentioned contributions of Paracelsus to chemistry were contained in the work of the newly discovered author, and often more thoroughly explained and more comprehensively treated than in Paracelsus, though sometimes the opposite was the case.

Basil Valentine had also spoken of zinc and bismuth and called them bastards of the metals. He had also noted the action of oil of