Thesis ID: CBB621193746

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


Newman, William Royall (Advisor)
Meagan Selby Allen (Author)

Newman, William Royall
Indiana University
Publication date: 2021
Language: English

Publication Date: 2021
Physical Details: 388

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.

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Authors & Contributors
Newman, William Royall
Alakbarli, Farid
Bauer, Ralph
Calvet, Antoine
Cook, Harold John
Crisciani, Chiara
Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity
Micrologus: Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Royal Historical Society. Transactions
Harvard University
Columbia University Press
SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo
University of Chicago Press
University of Virginia Press
Science and religion
Human body
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Bacon, Roger
Johannes de Rupescissa
Albertus Magnus
al-Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad
Arnaldus de Villanova
Time Periods
Early modern
13th century
14th century
17th century

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