To mimic the Creator and create life ex nihilo – almost from nothing – has been the ambition of some men, none more so than Philip Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim (1493 – 1541), a 16th-century doctor and alchemist, better known as Paracelsus, whose ego almost surpassed his desire to create life, as he deemed himself the equal match of his Creator.
The Louvre copy of the lost portrait by Quentin Matsys, source of the iconographic tradition of “fat” Paracelsus (Public Domain)
Call Him Homonculus
Paracelsus’ script De Natura Rerum (1537) outlines his method for creating homunculi: “That the sperm of a man be putrefied by itself in a sealed cucurbit for 40 days with the highest degree of putrefaction in a horse’s womb, or at least so long that it comes to life and moves itself, and stirs, which is easily observed. After this time, it will look somewhat like a man, but transparent, without a body. If, after this, it be fed wisely with the Arcanum of human blood, and be nourished for up to 40 weeks, and be kept in the even heat of the horse’s womb, a living human child grows therefrom, with all its members like another child, which is born of a woman, but much smaller.”