The PioneersThe MilitaryReferences

The Dark Ages

Peter Angherius

In 1516 the Italian, Peter Angherius (Peter Martyr d’Anghera) described curare in his book De Orbe Novo (The New World) This writer was born in 1457 and moved to Spain during the time of the Great Inquisition, his Italian heritage gave him some protection  but he still took a chance as did other Italians at that time like Columbus. The Curare is  the substance South American Indians used as an arrow poison.




Pedro de Cieza de Leon 1520- 1554 

Pedro de Cieza de Leon was likely born in 1520 in Llerena, a town in south-eastern Extremadura. Little is known of his early life; given the fact that he left home at age thirteen, it is doubtful that Cieza de Leon received more than a rudimentary education at a local parish school. His father, Lope de Leon, was a shopkeeper in the town, and his mother was a native of Llerena, and there is scant documentary evidence of the young Cieza de Leon’s childhood.

Victor Von Hagen sugested that the poor soil of “this bald and eroded land” was one of the reasons that Extremadura seemed to be the birthplace of so many New World conquistadores. You see Extremadura was the source of many of the initial Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) and settlers in America. Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, Gonzalo Pizarro, Juan Pizarro, Hernando Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, Pedro de Alvarado, Pedro de Valdivia, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Ines Suarez, Alonso de Sotomayor, Francisco de Orellana, Pedro Gomez Duran Chaves, and Vasco Nunez de Balboa were all born in Extremadura.291

Still, the lure of the reputed vast wealth of the newly discovered lands would have likely served as a magnet to impoverished young men irrespective of the relative fertility of the Extremadura soil. 122 In 1550, he wrote about the cocoa plant. 

The first mention from an English source was in 1577 in Frampton’s joyful News out of the new found world. 
In 1595 de Costa mentioned the effect of ice on the limbs and its use as an anaesthetic. 123 





Valreius Cordus (1515-1544) 

In 1540 Valreius Cordus prepared a substance calling it Sweet Oil of Vitriol. It has been suggested, that he may have learned the method from Portuguese Explorers, who brought the knowledge from the Middle East.

His lecture notes (Annotations on Dioscorides) were published posthumously in 1546. This brilliant young chemist was to have his life cut short, but in his 29 years he made discoveries that had a great impact on the future of chemistry especially when it came to anaesthesia.

The son of an ardent Lutheran convert Euricius Cordus (Heinrich Ritze, 1486-1535) Valerius Cordus was born either in Hesse or Erfurt. He began his higher education in 1527, at the young age of 12, studying botany and pharmacy under the tutelage of his father.

In the same year he also enrolled at the University of Marburg; he completed his bachelor's degree in 1531. From then until 1539, he furthered his studies by working at an apothecary shop owned by his uncle (either Johannes or Joachim) in Leipzig and enrolling in the University of Leipzig. 234 After his death, Conrad Gessner published a considerable amount of his remaining unpublished work, including De Extractione (which featured Cordus' ether synthesis method) and Historia Stirpium et Sylva in 1561.234




Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim or simply Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Paracelsus was born in Einsiedeln, Switzerland and was an alchemist, physician, astrologer, and general occultist. Born Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, he took the name Paracelsus later in life, meaning "beside or similar to Celsus", an early Roman physician. 124

Little is known of Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, who took the name Paracelsus for himself. He was the son to a physician, and at the age of sixteen entered Basel University where he studied alchemy. He later worked in the mines at Tirol, where he gained first-hand knowledge of the properties of metals.

He was a physician who had a reputation for being quite arrogant (well his middle name was Bombastus) and whom it seems could have been in working with Cordus. 

Some say Paracelsus prepared Sweet oil of Vitriol for himself, but instead, sweetened his chicken feed instead, he commented on how the chickens slept and awakened without harm. Paracelsus believed that the physician’s main weapon against disease was tender loving care; he is responsible for a preparation of a tincture of opium. This is still known under the name he gave it, laudanum.124

By his early thirties he had become famous as a physician in Basel, where he gave lectures on medicine. His disputes with the authorities in 1528 were symptomatic of his abrasive and arrogant disputing style, and led to his expulsion from Basel. In the last year of his life he settled in Salzburg.

He argued that human life could be created through alchemy, and believed in the long-sought-after elixir vitae as a means of infinitely prolonging life free from disease. His lasting contribution to science is the rejection of Galen's humoral theory of illness.235

Percy Bysshe Shelley listed Paracelsus (along with Agrippa) among his favorite writers in a discussion with Godwin in 1812.

Nearly two hundred years later, in 1730 W.G Frobenius, a German renamed Sweet oil of Vitriol, Ether.




Quote 50


What the eyes perceive in herbs or stones or trees is not yet a remedy; the eyes see only the dross"106






Previous Page          Next Page