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September 20, 1941


JAMA. 1941;117(12):1018-1019. doi:10.1001/jama.1941.02820380040012

Four hundred years ago on September 24 one of the most controversial personalities in medical history, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus of Hohenheim, called Paracelsus, "exchanged life for death" in his forty-eighth year. Bombast was his family name. The word implying scorn was applied to him since the English Galenist Walter Harris used it in the sentence "thy Bombastick name shall be despised."

In his days and for centuries afterward Paracelsus was regarded as a boasting, uneducated charlatan, though he was graduated rightfully with the laurea in medicina at the Ateneo of Ferrara. He was described as an egotistic noisemaker, a drunken braggart, a devil worshiper. More moderate critics called him an eccentric fool, a zealotic halfwit, a superstitious visionary, a megalomaniac. Nevertheless he was an ingenious pathfinder for medicine and a physician of special originality and skill. The name of medical Luther too clung to him, though this was originally