- Jan Baptist van Helmont
name = Jan Baptist van Helmont
image_width = 150px
caption = Jan Baptista van Helmont
January 12, 1579
December 30, 1644
Vilvoorde, Southern Netherlands
chemist, physiologist, physician
pneumatic chemistry, gas
Jan Baptist van Helmont (bapt.
January 12, 1579[http://people.mech.kuleuven.be/~erik/local_heroes.html Johannes Baptist Van Helmont] ] – December 30, 1644) was an early modern periodFlemish chemist, physiologist, and physician. He worked during the years just after Paracelsusand iatrochemistry, and is sometimes considered to be "the founder of pneumatic chemistry". [cite book | last = Holmyard | first = Eric John | authorlink = | title = Makers of Chemistry | publisher=Oxford University Press | date=1931 | location=Oxford | pages = 121 ] Van Helmont is remembered today largely for his ideas on spontaneous generation, his 5-year tree experiment, and his introduction of the word "gas" into the vocabulary of scientists.
Van Helmont was the youngest of five children of Maria (van) Stassaert and Christiaen van Helmont, a public prosecutor and Brussels council member, who had married in the Sint-Goedele church in 1567. He was educated at Leuven, and after ranging restlessly from one science to another and finding satisfaction in none, turned to medicine. He interrupted his studies, and for a few years he traveled through
Switzerland, Italy, France, and England.
Returning to his own country, van Helmont lived at Antwerp at the time of the great plague in 1605. In 1609 he finally obtained his doctoral degree in medicine. The same year he married Margaret van Ranst, who was of a wealthy noble family. Jan and Margaret lived in
Vilvoorde, near Brussels, and had six or seven children. The inheritance of his wife enabled him to retire early from his medical practice and occupy himself with chemical experiments until his death on the 30th of December 1644.
Van Helmont was a man of contradictions. On the one hand, he was a disciple of
Paracelsus(though he scornfully repudiated his errors as well as those of most other contemporary authorities), a mystic and alchemist. On the other hand, he was touched with the new learning based on experimentthat was producing men like William Harvey, Galileo Galileiand Francis Bacon.
Van Helmont is regarded as the founder of
pneumatic chemistry[cite book | last = Holmyard | first = Eric John | authorlink = | title = Makers of Chemistry | publisher=Oxford University Press | date=1931 | location=Oxford | pages = 121 ] , as he was the first to understand that there are gases distinct in kind from atmospheric air. The very word " gas" he claimed as his own invention, and he perceived that his "gas sylvestre" ( carbon dioxide) given off by burning charcoal, was the same as that produced by fermenting must, which sometimes renders the air of caves unbreathable.
For van Helmont,
airand waterwere the two primitive elements. Fire he explicitly denied to be an element, and earth is not one because it can be reduced to water.
Van Helmont was a careful observer of
nature, and an exact experimenter who realized that mattercan neither be created nor destroyedFact|date=November 2007. He performed an experiment to determine where plants get their mass. He grew a willow tree and measured the amount of soil, the weight of the tree and the water he added. After five years the plant had gained about 164 pounds. Since the amount of soil was basically the same as it had been when he started his experiment, he deduced that the tree's weight gain had come from water. Since it had received nothing but water and the soil weighed practically the same as at the beginning, he argued that the increased weight of wood, bark and roots had been formed from water alone.
At the same time, chemical principles guided him in the choice of medicines -- undue acidity of the digestive juices, for example, was to be corrected by
alkalines and vice versa; he was thus a forerunner of the iatrochemical school, and did service to medicine by applying chemical methods to the preparation of drugs.
Religious and philosophical opinions
Although a faithful Catholic, he incurred the suspicion of the Church by his tract "De magnetica vulnerum curatione" (1621), which was thought to derogate from some of the miracles. His works were collected and edited by his son
Franciscus Mercurius van Helmontand published by Lodewijk Elzevirin Amsterdamas "Ortus medicinae, vel opera et opuscula omnia" in 1648 [cite book | last = Partington | first = J. R. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = A Short History of Chemistry | publisher = Macmillan | date=1951 | location=London | pages = 44 – 54 ] . "Ortus medicinae" was based on, but not restricted to, the material of "Dageraad ofte Nieuwe Opkomst der Geneeskunst" ("Daybreak, or the New Rise of Medicine"), which was published in 1644 in Van Helmont's native Dutch. In his son Frans's own writings (e.g. "Cabbaiah Denudata" (1677) and "Opuscula philosophica" (1690)) mystical theosophy and alchemy appear in confusion.
Over and above the "archeus", he believed that there is the sensitive
soulwhich is the husk or shell of the immortal mind. Before the Fall the archeus obeyed the immortal mind and was directly controlled by it, but at the Fall men also received the sensitive soul and with it lost immortality, for when it perishes the immortal mind can no longer remain in the body.
In addition to the "archeus", which he described as "aura vitalis seminum, vitae directrix", van Helmont believed in other governing agencies resembling the archeus which were not always clearly distinguished from it. From these he invented the term "blas", defined as the "vis motus tam alterivi quam localis." Of" blas" there were several kinds, e.g. blas humanum and blas meteoron; the heavens he said "constare gas materiâ et blas efficiente."
Van Helmont and digestion
Van Helmont wrote extensively on the subject of digestion. In "Oriatrike or Physics Refined" (1662, English translation of "Ortus medicinae ..."), van Helmont addressed earlier ideas on the subject, such as that food was digested due to the body's internal heat. If such was the case, van Helmont argued, how could cold-blooded animals live? His own opinion was that digestion was aided by a chemical reagent, or "ferment", within the body, such as inside the stomach. Harré suggests that in this way, van Helmont's idea was "very near to our modern concept of an enzyme." [cite book | last = Harré | first = Rom | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Great Scientific Experiments | publisher=Oxford University Press | date=1983 | location=Oxford | pages = 33 – 35 ] van Helmont proposed and described six different stages of digestion. [cite book | last = Foster | first = Michael | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Lectures on the History of Physiology | publisher=Dover Publications | date=1970 | location=New York | pages = 136 – 144 ; originally published in 1901 by Cambridge University Press]
In 2003, the historian
Lisa Jardineclaimed a recently discovered portrait represented Robert Hooke. However, Jardine's hypothesis was disproved by William Jensen of the University of Cincinnatiand by the German researcher Andreas Pechtl of Johannes Gutenberg University of MainzFact|date=October 2007. The portrait in fact depicts Jan Baptista van Helmont.
For further reading
* Redgrove, I. M. L. and Redgrove, H. Stanley (2003). "Joannes Baptista van Helmont: Alchemist, Physician and Philosopher", Kessinger Publishing.
* Pagel, Walter (2002). "Joan Baptista van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine", Cambridge University Press.
Moldavianprince and scholar, Dimitrie Cantemir, wrote a biography of Helmont, which is now difficult to locate.
* Nature 433, 197 (20 January 2005)doi:10.1038/433197a; Published online 19 January 2005
Eugene M. Klaaren, " [http://books.google.com/books?id=t8wnAAAAYAAJ&pgis=1 Religious Origins of Modern Science] ", Eerdmans, 1977, ISBN 0802816835, 244 pages
Timeline of hydrogen technologies
Notes and references
Steffen Ducheyne, Joan Baptiste van Helmont and the Question of Experimental Modernism, Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza, vol.43, 2005, pp. 305-332.
* [http://www.libraries.uc.edu/source/volfour/oesper2.html Identification of a portrait of van Helmont] - earlier misidentified as a picture of
* Ferguson, John (1906). [http://books.google.com/books?id=fJYAAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA381&dq=Oriatrike+van+helmont&as_brr=1 Johann Baptiste van Helmont] , "Bibliotheca Chemica: A Catalogue of the Alchemical, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Books in the Collection of the Late James Young of Kelly and Durris, Esq., LL.D., F.R.S., F.R.S.E.", Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, page 381.
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=IPMHAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA22&dq=van+helmont&as_brr=1#PPA22,M1 Moore, F. J.] (1918). A History of Chemistry, New York: McGraw-Hill.
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=fXkJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA179&dq=van+helmont&as_brr=1 Thomson, Thomas] (1830). The History of Chemistry, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley.
* [http://usuarios.lycos.es/rotedu/Helmont.html "Ortus Medicinae", 1648 ("Origin of Medicine")]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Jan Baptist Van Helmont — Jean Baptiste Van Helmont Jean Baptiste van Helmont Jean Baptiste van Helmont était un alchimiste, chimiste, physiologiste et médecin originaire des Pays Bas espagnols né à Bruxelles le 12 janvier 1579 e … Wikipédia en Français
Jan Baptist van Helmont — Jean Baptiste Van Helmont Jean Baptiste van Helmont Jean Baptiste van Helmont était un alchimiste, chimiste, physiologiste et médecin originaire des Pays Bas espagnols né à Bruxelles le 12 janvier 1579 e … Wikipédia en Français
Jan baptist van helmont — Jean Baptiste Van Helmont Jean Baptiste van Helmont Jean Baptiste van Helmont était un alchimiste, chimiste, physiologiste et médecin originaire des Pays Bas espagnols né à Bruxelles le 12 janvier 1579 e … Wikipédia en Français
Jan Baptista van Helmont — Nacimiento 12 de enero 1579 Bruselas … Wikipedia Español
VAN HELMONT (J. B.) — VAN HELMONT JAN BAPTIST (1577 1644) Chimiste, physiologiste et médecin flamand, Jan Baptist van Helmont eut le grand mérite d’avoir établi un pont entre l’alchimie et la chimie, et malgré ses penchants mystiques et sa croyance en la pierre… … Encyclopédie Universelle
VAN HELMONT (F. M.) — VAN HELMONT FRANCISCUS MERKURIUS (1618 1699) Né à Vilvorde, Franciscus van Helmont fut le continuateur de son père Jan Baptist van Helmont, qui l’avait appelé Merkurius par amour de l’alchimie. On peut le regarder comme un des grands… … Encyclopédie Universelle
Van Helmont — (Jan Baptist) (1577 1644) médecin et chimiste flamand. Il isola le gaz carbonique et, établissant la composition de l air, dégagea la notion de gaz (mot qu il créa) … Encyclopédie Universelle
Johan Baptista van Helmont — Jan Baptist van Helmont, von Lisa Jardine fälschlich „Robert Hooke“ zugeschrieben Johan Baptista van Helmont (* 12. Januar 1580 (nach gregorianischem Kalender) in Brüssel; † 30. Dezember 1644 in Vilvoorde bei Brüssel) war ein flämischer… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Zeger Jacob van Helmont — Autoportrait de van Helmont. Nom de naissance Van Helmont … Wikipédia en Français
Alchimie — Jan van der Straet Le laboratoire de l alchimiste (1551) L alchimie est une discipline qui recouvre un ensemble de pratiques et de spéculations en rapport avec la transmutation des métaux[1 … Wikipédia en Français