Crollius, Oswald

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Crollius, Oswald

(b. Wetter, near Marburg, Germany, ca. 1560; d. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1609)

medicine, iatrochemistry.

Crollius was the third son of Johann Crollius, the mayor of Wetter. He received an excellent education at the abbey school in Wetter and at the University of Marburg, which he entered in 1576. Later he studied at Heidelberg, Strasbourg, and Geneva, receiving a doctorate in medicine about 1582. Crollius’ first position was with the d’Esnes family in France, as an instructor. During frequent travels he became fluent in Italian and French.

In 1590 Crollius entered the service of Count Maximilian von Pappenheim as a tutor. His close contact with the emperor and high nobility led to Crollius’ being entitled to use a coat of arms in 1591. After 1593 Crollius traveled about eastern Europe as a physician. Prague was his permanent residence from 1602. At that time he healed Prince Christian I of Anhalt-Bernburg, who appointed him Archiat. Even Emperor Rudolf II often consulted him and said of their relationship “cuius ipsi opera usi fuimus” (“whose work we ourselves did use”).

Prince Christian soon formed a close relationship with Crollius, using him as a sort of emissary in Prague and discussing with him questions of politics as well as matters relating to alchemy and iatrochemistry. During these discussions Crollius also received material support for the practical chemical experiments that, in addition to his medical and diplomatic obligations, he conducted to determine the properties of the chemical remedies he had acquired. They became the basis of iatrochemistry.

Crollius recorded his knowledge, his experiments, and his theoretical views in a book entitled Basilica Chymica, which was printed with the “Tractatus de signaturis.” Whether Crollius lived to see the first edition (1609) is uncertain. The Basilica chymia became the standard scientific work of iatrochemistry. used it as a practical textbook.

The Basilica is marked by a peculiar dualism that is typical of Crollius’ medical theory. A convinced partisan of the subjective Platonic theory of knowledge, he considered the harmony of microcosm and macrocosm to be the foundation of medicine. In his views on pathology Crollius was entangled in the controversial ideas of Paracelsus. The dualism is also shown in his practical therapy. Healing by purely spiritual means was his ultimate goal, but in daily practice he insisted on the very real and often drastic remedies of iatrochemistry. Crollius also believed in one universal medicine, yet he developed dozens of useful chemical preparations for apothecaries.

In sharp contrast with Paracelsus’ vagueness, Crollius describes in detail the individual preparations, their composition, and their composition, and their application. This explains why the book became such a great success, running to many new editions and occasioning many commentaries.

At Crollius’ death iatrochemistry lost one of its great exponents, for he is credited with gaining academic recognition of the medicinal value of many chemicals previously rejected as remedies.


Crollius’ only book is Basilica chymica continens philosophicam… descriptionem, et usum remediorum chymicorum… (Frankfurt, 1609, 1611, 1623; Leipzig, 1634; Geneva, 1642, 1658), published with “Tractatus novus de signaturis internorum rerum.”

There are articles on Crollius in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, IV; and Neue deutsche Biographie, C. See also J. A. Döderlein, Historische Nachrichten(Schwabach, 1739); H. Fränkl, Zur Geschichte der Medizin in den Anhalt’schen Fürstentümern (Leipzig, 1858); G. Schröder, “Oswald Crollius,” in pharmaceutical Industry, 21 (1959), 405—408; and “Studien zur Geschichte der Chemiatrie,” in Pharmazeutische Zeitung, 111 , no. 35 (1966), 1246 ff.; and H. Witte, Diarium biographicum (Gedern, 1688).

Gerald SchrÖder

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Crollius, Oswald

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