HISTORY OF CHEMISTRY: Iatrochemistry. Francis de la Boë Sylvius (1614-72). Johann Rudolph Glauber (1604-68).
To Francis de la Boë Sylvius (1614-1672), who studied with care the works of Van Helmont and of Descartes, is due to the foundation of the iatro-chemical sect among physicians. In his view the health of the human frame depends upon the relation of its fluids, which were acid and alkaline (acidum and lixivum), and these by union produced a neutral and milder substance; two kinds of diseases were distinguished, the result either alkaline or of acid acridity. The new doctrine served to explain many chemical facts, and led to the establishment by Lémery and Macquer of a distinction between acid and alkaline or, as they were afterwards called, basic compounds. This recognition of this chemical difference in bodies and their consequent disposition to unite prepared the way for the conception of chemical attraction or affinity.
In the works of Glauber (1604-1688), alchemy, the preparation of chemical medicines, and the processes employed by him for that end are treated of. His Miraculum Mundi has for its subject the virtues of the sal mirabile, Sulphate of sodium, or Glaubers salt, of which he was the discoverer; and in other of his works he described various chlorides of the metals, the sulphates of iron and copper, and sulphuric, nitric, and hydrochloric acids, but with respect to their ultimate constitution he advances no theory; he variously states in his different works that mercury and salt are the principles of all metals, that salt is the origin of all things, and again that water and earth have produced all the minerals and metals.
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