Thesis ID: CBB621193746

Roger Bacon's Medical Alchemy: Medieval Pharmacology and the Prolongatio Vitae (2021)


This dissertation examines Roger Bacon’s interest in alchemy and its role in medicine, and how it connects with the 13th century milieu in which he was writing. Alchemy, rather than solely being about transmuting base metals into noble ones, finds its greatest use in the prolongatio vitae, or the extension of human life toward its natural limits, as exemplified by the Biblical Patriarchs. Borrowing the idea of a medicine for metals from pseudo-Avicenna’s De anima, Bacon develops a 1:1 correspondence between the medicine of metals and the medicine of people. He synthesizes material from many different sources to develop a theory uniquely his: that a body of equal proportion, in which the elements are all balanced in their potencies, is not only able to exist without corruption, but can impart that incorruptibility on a different substance. Rather than needing a specific medicine for each disease, Bacon’s corpus equale for humans is universal, and works by virtue of its own equality. This dissertation also shows that Bacon, despite having many original ideas regarding the role of alchemy and a corpus equale in the prolongatio vitae, is far from alone in believing that such an extension of life is possible. There was significant interest in the prolongation of life among 13th and 14th century physicians, and how it could be accomplished. Bacon himself has a change of opinion in the three decades in which he writes about the prolongatio vitae: at the beginning, he is hesitant to assign any importance to alchemy as a tool for extending life, but in his more mature works, he considers alchemy to be one of the sciences vital to the prolongatio vitae.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Thesis Yan Liu; (2015)
Toxic Cures: Poisons and Medicines in Medieval China (/isis/citation/CBB849633602/) unapi

Article Chiara Crisciani; (2018)
Death as a Destiny and the Hope of Long Life in the Latin Middle Ages (/isis/citation/CBB657013511/) unapi

Book Sylla, Edith Dudley; Newman, William Royall; (2009)
Evidence and Interpretation in Studies on Early Science and Medicine Essays in Honor of John E. Murdoch (/isis/citation/CBB001220782/) unapi

Book Jennifer M. Rampling; (2020)
The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700 (/isis/citation/CBB983185229/) unapi

Article Matus, Zachary; (2013)
Resurrected Bodies and Roger Bacon's Elixir (/isis/citation/CBB001213516/) unapi

Book Luthy, Christoph; Murdoch, John E.; Newman, William R.; (2001)
Late Medieval and Early Modern Corpuscular Matter Theories (/isis/citation/CBB000100046/) unapi

Chapter Michela Pereira; (2016)
Projecting Perfection. Remarks on the Origin of the "Alchemy of the Elixir" (/isis/citation/CBB815669811/) unapi

Thesis Matus, Zachary Alexander; (2010)
Heaven in a Bottle: Franciscan Apocalypticism and the Elixir, 1250--1360 (/isis/citation/CBB001560805/) unapi

Book DeVun, Leah; (2009)
Prophecy, Alchemy and the End of Time: John of Rupescissa in the Late Middle Ages (/isis/citation/CBB001020324/) unapi

Article Czaja, Olaf; (2013)
On the History of Refining Mercury in Tibetan Medicine (/isis/citation/CBB001510476/) unapi

Article Cook, Harold J.; (2011)
Markets and Cultures: Medical Specifics and the Reconfiguration of the Body in Early Modern Europe (/isis/citation/CBB001200553/) unapi

Article Wujastyk, Dagmar; (2013)
Perfect Medicine: Mercury in Sanskrit Medical Literature (/isis/citation/CBB001510474/) unapi

Article Livia Radici; (2010)
Notizia sul Tractatus VIII de pertinentibus ad venena et animalia venenosa (/isis/citation/CBB059903647/) unapi

Book José Carlos Santos Paz; Sextus Pseudo-Placitus; (2018)
Liber medicine ex quadrupedibus. Magos y doctores. La medicina en la alta Edad Media (/isis/citation/CBB165889473/) unapi

Book Zohar Amar; (2017)
Arabian Drugs in Medieval Mediterranean Medicine (/isis/citation/CBB969386753/) unapi

Article Jagtap, C. Y.; Patgiri, B. J.; Prajapati, P. K.; (2013)
Purification and Detoxificationprocedures for Metal Ta--Mra in Medieval Indian Medicine (/isis/citation/CBB001451233/) unapi

Article Ernesto Riva; Carla Camana; (2018)
Radiografia della teriaca (/isis/citation/CBB982733896/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Newman, William Royall
Lüthy, Christoph H.
Murdoch, John Emery
Jacquart, Danielle
Molland, G.
Lohr, Charles H.
Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity
Micrologus: Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies
Royal Historical Society. Transactions
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Indian Journal of History of Science
Tarikh-e Elm (The Iranian Journal for the History of Science)
Harvard University
Columbia University Press
Edizioni Cadmo
SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo
Edinburgh University Press
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Bacon, Roger
Johannes de Rupescissa
Lull, Ramón
Patrizi, Francesco
Bruno, Giordano
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Mediterranean region
South Asia
Andalusia (Spain)
13th century
14th century
Early modern
17th century

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment