Throughout his controversial life, the alchemist, physician, and social-religious radical known as Paracelsus combined traditions that were magical and empirical, scholarly and folk, learned and artisanal. He read ancient texts and then burned “the best” of them. He endorsed both Catholic and Reformation beliefs, but he also believed devoutly in a female deity. He traveled constantly, learning and teaching a new form of medicine based on the experience of miners, bathers, alchemists, midwives, and barber-surgeons. He argued for changes in the way the body was understood, how disease was defined, and how treatments were created, but he was also moved by mystical speculations, an alchemical view of nature, and an intriguing concept of creation.

Bringing to light the ideas, diverse works, and major texts of this important Renaissance figure, Bruce T. Moran tells the story of how alchemy refashioned medical practice, showing how Paracelsus’s tenacity and endurance changed the medical world for the better and brought new perspectives to the study of nature in his book titled 'Paracelsus: an Alchemical Life'.

Bruce T. Moran is professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is the author of Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry and the Scientific Revolution and Andreas Libavius and the Transformation of Alchemy. He is also the editor of Ambix: The Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry.


  • Bruce Moran (University of Nevada, Reno)
  • Tillmann Taape (Frances Yates Long-Term Research Fellow, Warburg Institute)
  • François Quiviger (Warburg Institute)

This event took place on 17 February 2022.

Renaissance Lives is a series of biographies published by Reaktion Books as well as a series of conversations discussing the ways in which individuals transmitted or changed the lives of traditions, ideas and images.