This project (2018-1-ES01-KA203-050606) has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Educational Material

Unit 8 - Alchemy and Chemistry in the Renaissance


1.2 Learning Objectives
The mysterious, occult side of alchemy still captures the imagination of the modern public, with Harry Potter chasing the elusive Philosopher’s Stone and names such as John Dee spawning thousands of occult sites studying the esoteric symbolism behind alchemical symbols.

Most of the modern interpretations have a basis in historical fact, and writers such as Chaucer, Ben Jonson, and Dante gleefully included alchemists as shady charlatans and figures of parody.

Among the objectives of teaching the History of Medicine is to increase the integration of knowledge, to overcome the gap between clinical practice and the historical perspective of human sciences, to update the historical contents, to materialize the history through the visual representation, the contact with objects and tools of work, the study of images.

The general aim of learning is the knowledge of the historical period between the end of the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, of the cultural drives that affirmed with Humanism, the reconstruction of the evolutionary path of chemistry in the Renaissance through the reading of the works inherited from the fathers of Science and Art. More specifically, the aim of the course is to acquire historical data through the analysis of the writings and medical theories proposed by Ramon Llull, Arnaldo da Villanova, Paracelsus and the other alchemists that represent the courageous attempt to go beyond the traditional teaching model centred on the transmission of abstract scientific contents, on doctrinal knowledge, proposing new ways of investigation and methodologies for knowledge, such as the use of scientific approach to understand the efficacy of erbs and other materials in the care of illnesses.

It is proposed a reversal of the order of priorities between theoretical learning and experience, between reading and observation. Alchemical and chemical texts in this period are generated by practice.

There was a growing interest in the pharmacological research that had been aroused by the widespread and recurrent plague epidemics in the 14th and 15th centuries, with various medical authors. Paracelsus, for example, was the first to recommend the use of minerals and chemicals for the treatment of human diseases, unlike the previous doctrines where it was limited to the use of plants and plant extracts

The "object-based learning" approach constitutes an alternative model of educational provision through the representation of historical scenarios and the integration of data within specific contents that appears to be highly effective for learning by students. The feedback of training experiences projected in the experience is definitely positive. The analysis of the writings of the 15th and 16th centuries, the theories proposed by Paracelsus and his followers, the tools used, anatomical illustrations of painters and sculptors of the 15th century and the observation of Leonardo's drawings allow a different understanding of the historical data and the scientific path, the achievements of medical science and the evolution of chemistry. The interweaving of Arts and Science also favours a better integration between the humanistic and the medical components.

The model of learning medical science introduced by Renaissance alchemists is an important turning point in the history of medicine, proposing an innovative and effective learning methodology, with direct impact, which aims to establish a relationship between the learner and the object of study.

The project intends to develop a teaching platform that makes use of museum objects and uses audiovisual tools and collections of medical art. The approach to scientific knowledge and to the study of Chemistry in Paracelsus experience represents, in this sense, an emblematic example of visualization, experimentation, and analysis data acquisition according to a training modality based on the approach to the object of study. The impact with museum collections is pedagogical. Promoting the study of the history of medicine through the authenticity of objects and their value as primary sources, developing a scientific reading through the impulse of the interpretation of the object and the implementation of knowledge by students is the aim of our work.

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