Paracelsus (1493-1541) was a prominent but controversial figure in post-medieval medicine. Born Aureolus von Hohenheim in Switzerland, he was trained by his physician father but also dabbled in chemistry, metallurgy and alchemy. By the mid-1520s, he was practising in Strasbourg while also researching and writing.
Paracelsus’ philosophy focused on the relationship between the human body and naturally occurring organic and mineral matter. He also stressed the importance of natural healing processes, something evident in this extract from 1536:
“The surgeon must know that nature cannot by fooled or changed. He must follow nature, not nature follow him. If he uses remedies contrary to nature, he will ruin everything. For example, you cannot replace a limb that has been cut off and it is ridiculous to attempt it. In Veriul, I once saw a barber-surgeon take an ear that had been hacked off and stick it back with mason’s cement. He was given great praise and there were cries of ‘Miracle!’ But the next day the ear fell off, as it was undermined with pus. The same thing happens with limbs if you try to stick them back on again. Where is the honour in such trickery?”