527JBA.   Walter Charleton The magnetick cure of wounds. 1650

A ternary of paradoxes. The magnetick cure of wounds. Nativity of tartar in wine. Image of God in man. Written originally by Joh. Bapt. Van Helmont, and translated, illustrated, and ampliated by Walter Charleton, Doctor in physick, and physician to the late Kingn [The second impression, more reformed, and enlarged with some marginal additions]

Bound with

Deliramenta catarrhi: or, The incongruities, impossibilities, and absurdities couched under the vulgar opinion of defluxions. The author, that great philosopher, by fire, Joh. Bapt. Van Helmont, &c. The translator and paraphrast Dr. Charleton, physician to the late King.

London : printed by James Flesher for William Lee, dwellingin [sic] Fleetstreet, at the sign of the Turks head, 1650.


London : printed by E.G. for William Lee at the signe of the Turks-head in Fleet-street, 1650. Price $2,200

Two Quarto volumes bound as one 18x 13.5 cm. ad.1]signatures A-Z4,Aa-Bb4. ad.2] Signatures A4,a2,B-K4,L2 bound in early calf, crudely rebacked. 

Van Helmont published very little until near the end of his life. This may be explained in part by the fact that his first known publication, “Of the Magnetic Curing of Wounds” (1621), led to trouble with the Spanish Inquisition. In addition to suggesting that saintly relics might display their curative effects through magnetic influence, he included very uncomplimentary comments regarding Jesuit scholastics. As a result, ecclesiastical court proceedings of one sort or another were pending against him for more than 20 years. Van Helmont was a man of his age and accepted the ideas of spontaneous generationtransmutation of metals, and the existence of a medical panacea. However, he insisted that knowledge of the natural world could be obtained only by experimentation. Many of his treatises deal with the refutation of commonly held views and the experimental evidence for his own views. He rejected the ideas of the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire) of Aristotle and the three principles (salt, mercury, and sulfur) of Paracelsus (as received from Arabic alchemists). For him, the only true elements were air and water, and he demonstrated that these were not interchangeable, as some thought. 

The ‘Magnetic cure’ is good example of the typical adaptations to which the original atom- cum-void model was everywhere subjected is given by Walter Charleton, who, though defining himself as a “Gassendo-Epicurean,” nonetheless insisted that the following three postulates had to be rejected: “(1.) Quod mundus non sit a Deo constitutus, that the World was not constituted by God; (2.) Quod mundus a Deo non gubernetur, that the World was not governed by God; (3.) Quod animus noster non superfit a funere, that the soul of man doth not survive the funeral of his body.”

In what is perhaps his best-known experiment, van Helmont placed a 5-pound (about 2.2-kg) willow in an earthen pot containing 200 pounds (about 90 kg) of dried soil, and over a five-year period he added nothing to the pot but rainwater or distilled water. After five years, he found that the tree weighed 169 pounds (about 77 kg), while the soil had lost only 2 ounces (57 grams). He concluded that “164 pounds of wood, barks, and roots arose out of water only,” and he had not even included the weight of the leaves that fell off every autumn. Obviously, he knew nothing of photosynthesis, in which carbon from the air and minerals from the soil are used to generate new plant tissue, but his use of the balance is important; he believed that the mass of materials had to be accounted for in chemical processes.

Wing 1402 and H1398 
cf. Booth, A Subtle and Mysterious Machine: The Medical World of Walter Charleton (1619-1707)

Men were very early fascinated by magnetism because of its manifest and particular working at distance, which looked different of gravity. It was tryed to be explained by mecanism, for exemple Descartes and Boyle. Paracelse valued the therapeutics with magnets and conceived medicines as working by a magnetic virtue. Gilbert limited the medicinal properties of magnet but helded it to be animated. Many authors praised remedies that work at distance of the evil as Bacon, Van Helmont, Croll, Porta, Goclenius, Digby. Such a belief related to magic ideas of this time. In the Bacon’s way Boyle collected facts of magnetic cures, and his actual testing of the divisibility of bodies led him to conceive imponderable corpuscles. Newton supposed a subtil and universel fluid going through every solid body. Mesmer misappropriated this idea by founding the animal magnetism of which physical working was only proceeding from the inside of the patient by an effect of suggestion (psychosomatic). Homeopathy took again the notion of remedies having an infinite or a magnetic virtue, which partly issued from Paracelse’s and Mesmer’s doctrines, which were extolled in Germany at the time of Hahnemann. The latter decided in favour of a spiritualist and not corpuscular interpretation of the working of his homeopathic medicines.

The Effect of Magnetic Fields on Wound Healing
Experimental Study and Review of the Literature
Steven L Henry, MD, Matthew J Concannon, MD, and Gloria J Yee, MD 

Through many experiments in physiology, van Helmont demonstrated that acid was the digestive element in the stomach and was neutralized by alkali in the intestine and that blood combined with a “ferment from the air,” with venous blood removing a residue that escaped through the lungs. He studied extensively the formation and nature of kidney stones. His theory of “ferments” as the agents bringing about physiological processes is a crude precursor of the idea of enzymes.

Several other important studies occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Swiss physician, philosopher, and alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1542) investigated the medical properties of lodestones in the treatment of diseases such as epilepsy, diarrhea, and hemorrhage. William Gilbert (1544-1603), physician to Queen Elizabeth I, wrote his classic text De Magnete in 1600, describing hundreds of detailed experiments on electricity and terrestrial magnetism and debunking many quack medicinal uses of the magnet. Thomas Browne (1605- 1682) continued this attack on popular magnetic salves and remedies, suggesting that their putative healing power was due only to incorporated herbal and mineral compounds. The 17th century physician Kircher (1602-1680) developed a magnetic cure for strangulated hernias in which the patient was first fed iron filings and the imprisoned intestine was then freed from the surrounding muscular sheath through the external application of powerful magnets. In a similar manner, magnets were used by early oculists to retrieve iron splinters from the eyes of blacksmiths and other metalworkers.

376 © 1993 American College of Physicians
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