The zinc baptist

For years, I have given numerous conferences, courses, seminars and talks about the uses and properties of zinc, that miraculous material capable of reducing and postponing for decades the environmental corrosion of iron and steel. At the end of the day, in the hot-dip galvanizing sector it is frequent to approach this aspect, although always far above, and practically all the industries and associations in the sector always display the same data, although with different visualizations. I have rarely found in your information who gave the name to the element that gives life to this coating. But today I will tell you.

It was a certain Theophrastus Phillippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, or also Teofrasto Felipe Aureolo Bombast de Hohenheim, who baptized zinc or zinc. Better known as Paracelsus, he lived between 1493 and 1541, and while most of the reviews credit him as a Swiss alchemist and physician of immobile positions in mysticism and astrology, it should be noted that he was one of the most interesting figures in medicine for breaking with the absolute submission to Galen of Pergamum (2nd century) and Ibn Sina, also known as Avicenna (11th century).

Indeed, Galen’s anatomy writings had become the mainstay of the medieval physicians’ university studies, in a similar way to how the then prevailing knowledge in Physics and other disciplines of the natural world was based on Aristotle’s texts. But many of his ideas were incorrect: Galen never dissected a human body due to taboos about this practice in Greco-Roman society. The same can be said of the Canon of Medicine, an immense work by Avicenna that maintained its influence on the practice and teaching of Western medicine until well into the 17th century.

On June 24, 1527, surrounded by a congregated as well as astonished crowd, Paracelsus burned the books of both authors in front of the university building where he taught. In fact, returning to the foundations of Hippocratic observation, Paracelsus spent most of his life in an intense, if not violent, dispute with the doctors of his time. In this process, he conceived a new science, iatrochemistry or the use of chemical medicines, a precursor to pharmacology. He was the first to use mercury to treat syphilis, foreshadowing the 1909 treatment with Salvarsan.

And also, as part of his enormous effort to characterize various chemical substances, he was the first to describe zinc. He called it zincum.


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