excluding however his surgical books, which were already, however, in print at that time, or at least the important ones. Many of the writings included in Huser's collected works of Paracelsus are in the opinion of modern scholars not genuine. Huser himself included some which he thought were not genuine. The important point here, however, is that the body of the writings ascribed to Paracelsus was in print by 1591.
There exists no evidence that up to this time any one had ever heard of Basil Valentine. No known reference has been found in any author before 1600, no original manuscript nor copy of probably prior date has been known to exist.
The writings of Paracelsus, or attributed to him, give evidence that he possessed a familiar and extensive knowledge of the chemical facts and experimental methods of his time. He mentions the names of those from whom he learned the art and they are names that are known as students or practical chemists of the period, such as Trithemius, and Sigmund Füger, the miner and mine owner. Paracelsus published many chemical facts and observations which were new to the literature of chemistry. The names of zinc and bismuth appeared to have been first mentioned by him. He characterized these as resembling the metals (that is, the seven ancient metals) and called them bastards' of the metals, because they lacked malleability and ductility. He recognized a basis of discrimination between alum and the vitriols, in that while the latter have metals as bases alum has an earth for base, a good distinction for that time. He showed how an amalgam of copper might be obtained by precipitating copper from its "vitriol" (or sulphate) by means of iron and then rubbing the precipitated metal with mercury. He describes the action of oil of vitriol upon iron and notes that "air rises and breaks forth like a wind." He notes the bleaching action of the fumes of sulphur upon red roses, notes the preparation of metallic arsenic "prepared like a metal," and the formation of "fixed arsenic" (non-volatile arsenic acid) by the action of niter upon white arsenic. He first uses the term "reduction" for the preparation of the metals. He mentions the use of an infusion of nut galls for detecting iron in mineral waters and describes the separation of muriatic acid from mixture with nitric acid by the use of silver.
In Paracelsus first appears the theory of the chemical elements which dominated chemical thought until the rise of the phlogiston theory, viz., the notion that all substances are composed of the three elements mercury, sulphur and salt. From Gheber, Lullus and others of his predecessors he was familiar with the notion that mercury and sulphur were constituents of the metals, but he extended the theory and gave it a more consistent form by interpreting the mercury as the
- Hoefer, "Histoire de la Chimie," 2d ed., II., p. 12.