Bridging Traditions: Alchemy, Chemistry, and Paracelsian Practices in the Early Modern Era

Karen Hunger Parshall, Michael T. Walton, and Bruce T. Moran, eds.

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Bridging Traditions explores the connections between apparently different zones of comprehension and experience—magic and experiment, alchemy and mechanics, practical mathematics and geometrical mysticism, things earthy and heavenly, and especially science and medicine—by focusing on points of intersection among alchemy, chemistry, and Paracelsian medical philosophy.  (EMS 15)

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Early Modern Studies, Vol. 15

Bridging Traditions explores the connections between apparently different zones of comprehension and experience—magic and experiment, alchemy and mechanics, practical mathematics and geometrical mysticism, things earthy and heavenly, and especially science and medicine—by focusing on points of intersection among alchemy, chemistry, and Paracelsian medical philosophy. In exploring the varieties of natural knowledge in the early modern era, the authors pay tribute to the work of Allen Debus, whose own endeavors cleared the way for scholars to examine subjects that were once snubbed as suitable only to the refuse heap of the history of science.

This collection of essays is a fitting tribute to Allen Debus’s radically contrarian and visionary work. On topics ranging from Paracelsian medicine in Spain to the enigma of John Dee, the essays demonstrate that Debus’s legacy continues, though shaped and reshaped by new perspectives. Just as Debus confounded the traditional narrative of the Scientific Revolution by following the trail of alchemy and magic to discover a different Scientific Revolution, Bridging Traditions probes deeply into issues once snubbed as suitable only for the trash bin of history. An engaging and thought-provoking volume, Bridging Traditions will be important reading for anyone interested in early modern science and medicine.

— William Eamon, Regents and Distinguished Achievement Professor of History Emeritus, New Mexico State University

Allen Debus fundamentally altered the received storyline of the Scientific Revolution by introducing the “chemical philosophy” into the larger narrative. Bridging Traditions is a historiographical tour de force that interprets, corrects, and extends this vital legacy. It offers an unusually strong collection of essays that serves as a fitting tribute to Debus and his faithful and humane student Michael Walton, who tragically passed away while preparing the volume. Essential reading for serious students of the history of early modern science and other aspiring adepts.

— Charles Gunnoe, Aquinas College, author of Thomas Erastus and the Palatinate

Contents

Illustrations

Introduction

Chapter 1: Crafting the Chemical Interpretation of Nature: The Work of Allen G. Debus • Karen Hunger Parshall

Part One: Curious Practices and Practices of Curiosity

Chapter 2: Johann Hayne and Paracelsian Praxis: Chemical Physiology as a Link between Semeiotics and Therapeutics • Jole Shackelford

Chapter 3: Andreas Libavius and the Art of Chymia: Words, Works, Precepts, and Social Practices • Bruce T. Moran

Chapter 4: Chymical Curiosities and Trusted Testimonials in the Journal of the Leopoldina Academy of Curiosi • Margaret D. Garber

Chapter 5: Phlogiston and Chemical Principles: The Development and Formulation of Georg Ernst Stahl’s Principle of Inflammability • Ku-ming (Kevin) Chang

Part Two: Regional Contexts and Communities of Texts

Chapter 6: “If they are not pages that cure, they are pages that teach how to cure”: The Diffusion of Chemical Remedies in Early Modern Spain • Mar Rey Bueno

Chapter 7: Prescriptions of Alchemy: Two Austrian Medical Doctors and Their Alchemical Manuscripts • Anke Timmermann

Chapter 8: The Chemical Philosophy and Kabbalah: Pantheus, Khunrath, Croll, and the Treasures of the Oratory and the Laboratory • Michael T. Walton

Part Three: Evaluations and Perceptions

Chapter 9: Paracelsus on the Sidereal Powers: Revisiting the Historiographical Debate between Walter Pagel and Kurt Goldammer • Dane T. Daniel

Chapter 10: John Dee at 400: Still an Enigma • Nicholas H. Clulee

Chapter 11: On the Imagery of Nature in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods • Heinz Schott

Contributors

Index

Authors

Karen Hunger Parshall is professor of history and mathematics at the University of Virginia. In addition to numerous articles and chapters, she is the author, among other books and editions, of James Joseph Sylvester: Jewish Mathematician in a Victorian World (2006), Taming the Unknown: A History of Algebra from Antiquity to the Early Twentieth Century (with Victor J. Katz, 2014), and Experiencing Nature: Proceedings of a Conference in Honor of Allen G. Debus (coedited with Paul H. Theerman, 1997). She was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in 1996/97 and served from 1996 to 1999 as the editor-­in-­chief of Historia Mathematica.

Michael Thomson Walton took his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1979. He coedited, with Allen G. Debus, Reading the Book of Nature: The Other Side of the Scientific Revolution (1998). He is the author of Medical Practitioners and Law in Fifteenth Century London (with Phyllis J. Walton, 2003); Genesis and the Chemical Philosophy: True Christian Science in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (2011); and Anthonius Margaritha and the Jewish Faith: Jewish Life and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Germany (2012). Two of his articles, “John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica: Geometrical Cabala” and “Boyle and Newton on the Transmutation of Water and Air,” were reprinted in Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry: Papers from Ambix (edited by Allen G. Debus, 2004). Michael Walton died in August 2013.

Bruce Moran is professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he teaches courses in the history of science and early medicine. His general research interest is in the intersection of cultures, learned and lay, scribal and artisanal, Latinate and vernacular as they relate to the investigation of nature and the body in early modern Europe. Among many articles and books are Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution (2005) and Andreas Libavius and the Transformation of Alchemy: Separating Chemical Cultures with Polemical Fire (2007). He has been a Dibner Distinguished Fellow in the history of science and technology at the Huntington Library (2010/11), and, most recently, a Gorden Cain Distinguished Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (2014).

Reviews

Bridging Traditions pays tribute to the work of the late Allen Debus, a historian of science. Such scholarly tributes run the risk of being perceived as lacking coherence and/or independence. this volume quickly gets beyond any such misconceptions...Nicely done: a useful contribution to the literature for both scholars and the occasional curious chymist.

—L. W. Fine, Choice, January 2016, Vol. 53, No. 5

"Of special note is Karen Hunger Parshall's "Crafting the Chemical Interpretation of Nature: The Work of Allen G. Debus" and Heinz Schott's "On the Imagery of Nature in the Late medieval and Early Modern Periods". A unique and highly recommended addition to academic library collections..."

—Willis M. Buhle, Midwest Book Review

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