Honors Frankenstein

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    ParacelsusAnd his Influence on Mary

    Shelleys FrankensteinBy: Cait Gravell

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    His Life:

    Auroleus Phillipus Theostratus Bombastus vonHohenheim, commonly known as Paracelsus,was born in 1493 in Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

    At the age of 14 he left home and traveledaround Europe, learning much aboutmedicine, astrology, and alchemy along theway. He became an army surgeon, and it issaid that it was during this time that hiswonderful cures began.

    Following his time as a surgeon, he went to

    Germany where he became a professor ofphysics, medicine and surgery.

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    His Life Cont

    He soon became known as the Luther ofPhysics, because he denounced and burned

    the revered works of men like Galen. Paracelsus used unconventional ways of

    treating his patients, like utilizing minerals.He successfully treated syphilis by using

    mercury. He also disagreed with the practiceof bloodletting and cauterizing wounds withtar to prevent infection.

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    Paracelsus

    Because of his unconventional methods,and his denouncement of revered works

    of medicine, he lost his job. Paracelsus played a large part in

    changing medieval thought concerning

    medicine and many scientific debates ofhis time were often focused on hisinnovations.

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    Paracelsus

    It is said that his studies and work laid thefoundation for modern chemical physiology.He believed that the purpose of alchemyshouldnt be to produce gold, but to concoctmedications to treat disease.

    Paracelsus also believed in the threeprinciples of Arabian alchemists, consisting ofmercury (characterized by fluidity, heaviness,and metallicity), sulfur (characterized by theprinciple of inflammability), and salt(characterized by the principles of solidity and

    relative chemical inertness).

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    Paracelsus

    Paracelsus was the first to attempt to applyscientific principles toward medicine and wasresponsible for bringing alchemy andiatrochemistry together into the precursor ofmodern day pharmacology. Iatrochemistrywas concerned with preparing substances inthe simplest way, developing methods to

    insure consistent results, discovering themedical properties of substances, and findingnew substances of medicinal value. He alsoheavily stressed the importance of

    experimentation and made it a common

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    Mary Shelley and Science

    It is known that Mary Shelley was aneducated woman who understood and wasaware of much of the science of her day, andof the past. Her husband was known to befascinated with the power of science, andsome attribute this to the fact that hebelieved in the omnipotence of man and was

    an Atheist. It is said, however, that MaryShelley found the desire to become greaterthan nature frightening.

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    Mary Shelley and Science

    Tropp writes, The dangers accompanyingsuch an attempt at transcendence were madeclear to Mrs. Shelley when she looked at anancient tradition that still survived[alchemy]The science of alchemy reducedthe complexities of Nature to a few simpleprinciples and held out hope that man could

    use these secrets to gain cosmic power. Her fathers book St. Leondealt with an

    alchemist who gained too much power.

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    Mary Shelley

    Tropp writes, The medieval alchemistbelieved that one day, in a primitivelaboratory, after repeated purifying, distilling,and refining, he would find the secrets to lifeand be like GodTwo of the most famousalchemists, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus,are referred to in Frankenstein. They were

    well known to [Percy] Shelley, who poredover their works as a boy; considering thenature of the Shelleys relationship, they weredoubtless familiar to Mary as well.

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    In Mary Shelleys novel, Victor Frankenstein speaks of hisknowledge of Paracelsus and his discussion with a professor atthe University. He says, He heard with attention my little

    narration concerning my studies, and smiled at the names ofCornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, but without the contemptthat M. Krempe had exhibited. He said, that these were menwhose indefatigable zeal modern philosophers were indebted formost of the foundations of their knowledge. They had left tous, as an easier task, to give new names, and arrange inconnected classifications, the facts which they in a great degreehad been the instruments of bringing to light. The labours ofmen of genius, however, erroneously directed, scarcely ever failin ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind (28).

    Paracelsus and Frankenstein

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    The Alchemists dream

    Frankenstein finds the secret to life andthrough his desire for this power, he createsa creature that is unleashed on a world thatis not prepared. Frankenstein says, Whathad been the study and desire of the wisestmen since the creation of the world, was nowwithin my graspI was like the Arabian who

    had been buried with the dead, and found apassage to life aided only by one glimmering,and seemingly ineffectual light (31).

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    The Dream Becomes aNightmare

    After realizing the mistake he made increating a creature that he could not

    control, Frankenstein says, Learn frommehow dangerous is the acquirementof knowledge, and how much happierthat man is who believes his native

    town to be the world, than he whoaspires to become greater than hisnature will allow (31).