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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/606

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

facts from these writings, and in the later references to Paracelsus, which are in line with the judgments of earlier rather than of recent scholarship, no reference is made to the similar contributions of Paracelsus, thus conveying the inference of the priority of the works of the pseudo-Basilius.

Even Ernst von Meyer,[1] whose text-book is deservedly the most popular of recent histories, has not broken loose from the traditional mode of treatment. Referring to the writings in question, he recognizes that "their genuineness has become more and more questioned, and rightly so." But perhaps misled by the alleged "investigations, which were carried out at the command of the Emperor Maximilian I.," he still assumes that "a large number of facts were recorded by the writer, who lived about a hundred years before the books were published."

This rumor of the investigations by the Emperor Maximilian I. (who died 1519) which, as above stated, Kopp has pronounced without substantiation, is the most persistent of the traditions which have served to give the impression that the Basil Valentine literature is antecedent to Paracelsus. Naturally enough, accepting the truth of this statement, Meyer omits from his treatment of Paracelsus the enumeration of chemical data previously noted in Basil Valentine, and in referring, for instance, to the doctrine of the three elements, which to the best of our knowledge was original with Paracelsus he says:

With respect to the constituents of organic bodies Paracelsus adhered to the old assumption that the latter were composed of the three elementary substance forming qualities (elements) mercury (Mercurius), sulphur and salt.

In view of the results of the scholarly researches into the history of this period during the past thirty years by Kopp, Berthelot, Sudhoff, Strunz, Lasswitz and others, it is time that the Basil Valentine literature should be assigned to its proper and subordinate place in history. There is indeed great need of a thorough revision of the history of chemical discoveries and theories from the earliest times up to the rise of the phlogistic theory. The task will be no easy one, but the value of the work thoroughly done will well repay the labor.

  1. "History of Chemistry," 3d edition, translated by McGowan, 1906.