JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 514
Joan Baptiste van Helmont's
A ternary of paradoxes : the magnetick cure of wounds, nativity of tartar in wine, image of God in man.
(printed in London by James Flesher for William Lee, 1650), offers its own unintended paradoxes (and joined the field of relatively few books with the word "paradox" in their title). Purportedly a work of science, van Helmont offers the reader his views on the curative powers of the loadstone. Of particular interest is Helmont's (1579-1644) discussion of the weapon salve, a cure for injuries caused by knives and swords. The unique feature of this ointment was that it was not applied to the wound but to the weapon which caused the wound, though in the midst of other very problematic scientific observations, this wasn't so bad. For example, Helmont presented a recipe for making scorpions, which involved bricks, sunlight and basil, from which a scorpion would come.
And what exactly is Helmont's place in the history of science? Difficult to say: he did make several important physical discoveries, and did present what some have called the modern approach to experimentation (firm insistence on relateable objects in empirical observation and so on); however, he was a reaching alchemist misty mystic who rejected syllogistic thought, mathematics*, human reasoning. These are hard bits to let go.
All this said, what with scorpions and magnetic treatment of wounds, he comes close to the generation of infection in wounds: "Upon the solution of Unity in any part the ambient air...repleted with various
evaporations or aporrhoeas of mixt bodies, especially such as are then
suffering the act of putrefaction, violently invadeth the part and
thereupon impresseth an exotic miasm or noxious diathesis, which
disposeth the blood successively arriving at the wound, to
putrefaction, by the intervention of fermentation. " With his magnetic
sympathy, Van Helmont expressed clearly the doctrine of immunity and
the cure of disease by immune sera: "For he who has once recovered from
that disease hath not only obtained a pure balsaamical blood, whereby
for the future he is rendered free from any recidivation of the same
evil, but also infallibly cures the same affection in his
neighbour...and by the mysterious power of Magnetism transplants that
balsaam and conserving quality into the blood of...'
Problematic greatness just needs to be understood in greater detail than simply disregarding everything because someone disdains logic...
The interesting image in the middle of the title page is more religious symbolism than what seems to be a straightforward physics reference, and the bulk of it lies in the "lumen de lumine" inference, which in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed confesses faith in Jesus Christ as Lumen de Lumine (Light from Light). Once you replace the optics with the divine, the rest of the image and its relationship to the contetns of the obok becomes more clear.
* Helmont thought about the restrictiveness of mathematics, and that the quantitative aspects of things that math addressed missed their interior qualities, thus making mathematics not able to see what things are. Oopsie.