Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont

(1614—1698) physician and cabbalist

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Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont was born in Vilvoorde in the Brabant on 20 October 1614 and died in Borch, near Emmerich on 30 November 1698. He was educated by his father, the famous Paracelsian iatro-chemist, John Baptist van Helmont. After his father died in 1644 he renounced his inheritance and for some years travelled in the service of various German courts. Henry Oldenburg, whom he met in 1658, reported his habit in discussion of linking up his views about philosophical and medical matters with religious ones. He began to publish the works of his father that the Catholic authorities had suppressed and he himself was imprisoned by the Inquisition in 1661–2. His thought was already influenced by Cabbalistic ideas and in 1667 he published his first book (usually referred to as his Alphabet of Nature), in which he developed the idea of a natural original language spoken by Adam. His characteristic blend of the speculative and entirely practical was shown by his proposals arising from his theory for teaching those born deaf to speak and to understand speech. These proposals were taken up by J.M. Amman with a degree of success that was thought remarkable in medical circles well into the eighteenth century.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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