'A thing ridiculous'? Chemical medicines and the prolongation of human life in seventeenth-century England
AbstractSir Francis Bacon explored as a medical question the issue of how human life spans might be returned to the near-thousand years enjoyed by Adam and the Patriarchs. Extended old age seemed feasible: reports told of people living well into their centenary. Meanwhile, New World natives were said to live for several hundred years. The boundaries of old age in the seventeenth century were inconclusive, and the hope that life could be prolonged for decades beyond the allotted eighty years was a serious question. In 1633, one doctor observed that to “attaine to 100 is no wonder, having my selfe knowne some of both sexes”, but responding to the claims of Paracelsians asked, “is it not a thing ridiculous, now in these later times, to extend the life of man-kinde to 1000, 900, or at the least to 600 yeeres?” Comparing the reception of information extrapolated from Biblical sources, stories from distant lands, and the growing divide between philosophical and medico-scientific approaches, this paper looks at how “facts” about human longevity were received and employed by scholars and doctors during the course of the seventeenth century, and the emergence of a more “respectable” empirical chemistry from under the shade of alchemy.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22538.
Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/
More information through EDIRC
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
- B1 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925
- I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
- O52 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
You can help add them by filling out this form.
reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lucy Ayre on behalf of EH Dept.).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.