Basil Valentine Biography

Basil Valentine Biography Cover Records of the life of Basilius Valentinus, the Benedictine monk who for his achievements in the chemical sphere has been given the title of Father of Modern Chemistry, are a mass of conflicting evidence. Many and varied are the accounts of his life, and historians seem quite unable to agree as to his exact identity, or even as to the century in which he lived. It is generally believed, however, that 1394 was the year of his birth, and that he did actually join the Benedictine Brotherhood, eventually becoming Canon of the Priory of St. Peter at Erfurt, near Strasburg, although even these facts cannot be proved. Whatever his identity, Basil Valentine was undoubtedly a great chemist, and the originator of many chemical preparations of the first importance. Amongst these are the preparation of spirit of salt, or hydrochloric acid from marine salt and oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid) the extraction of copper from its pyrites (sulphur) by transforming it firstly into copper sulphate, and then plunging a bar of iron in the watery dissolution of this product: the method of producing sulpho-ether by the distillation of a mixture of spirit of wine and oil of vitriol: the method of obtaining brandy by the distillation of wine and beer, rectifying the distillation on carbonate of potassium. In his writings he has placed on record many valuable facts, and whether Basil Valentine is the correct name of the author or an assumed one matters little, since it detracts nothing from the value of his works, or the calibre of his practical experiments. From his writings one gathers that he was indeed a monk, and also the possessor of a mind and understanding superior to that of the average thinker of his day. The ultimate intent and aim of his studies was undoubtedly to prove that perfect health in the human body is attainable, and that the perfection of all metallic substance is also possible. He believed that the physician should regard his calling in the nature of a sacred trust, and was appalled by the ignorance of the medical faculty of the day whose members pursued their appointed way in smug complacency, showing little concern for the fate of their patients once they had prescribed their pet panacea. On the subject of the perfection of metallic bodies, as in his reference to the Spagyric Art, the Grand Magi-strum, the Universal Medicine, the Tinctures to transmute metals and other mysteries of the alchemist's art, he has completely mystified not only the lay reader, but the learned chemists of his own and later times. In all his works the important key to a laboratory process is apparently omitted. Actually, however, such a key is invariably to be found in some other part of the writings, probably in the midst of one of the mysterious theological discourses which he was wont to insert among his practical instructions, so that it is only by intensive study that the mystery can be unravelled. His most famous work is his Currus Triumphalis Antimonii - The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony. It has been translated into German, French, and English, and has done more to establish his reputation as a chemist than any other. The best edition is undoubtedly that published at Amsterdam in 1671 with a commentary by Theodorus Kerckringius. In his preface Kerckringius states that he had actually spoken with Valentine besides studying his works. He speaks of Basil as 'the prince of all chemists', and the most learned, upright, and lucid of all alchemistic writers. He tells the careful student everything that can be known in alchemy; of this I can most positively assure you.' A perusal of this book makes it quite evident that Valentine had investigated very thoroughly the properties of antimony, and the findings on his experimental work with this metal have.been brought forward as recent discoveries by chemists of our day. His other works are The Twelve Keys - The Medicine of Metals - Of Things Natural and Supernatural - Of the First Tincture, Root and Spirit of Metals - and his Last Will and Testament. It is alleged that this last work remained concealed for a number of years within the High Altar of the church belonging to the Priory. Such a story is quite feasible, since alchemists both before and after this era, deeming their works unfit for the age in which they were written, are known to have buried or otherwise secreted their writings for the discovery and benefit, as they doubtless hoped, of a more deserving and more enlightened age. Such manuscripts would very often not be discovered for several generations after the death of the author. In view of his other outstanding achievements as a chemist of great ability, it seems not illogical to suppose that Valentine's Universal Method of Medicine should be capable of achieving as great a measure of success as his other somewhat more prosaic discoveries.

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