Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (c. 1493–1541), also known as Paracelsus, claimed that a human-like creature called the homunculus (‘little human’) could be created in the lab by putrefying semen and feeding it with blood. Although it looked like a human child, it was endowed with great knowledge and powers. He claimed this was partly because it was unaffected by female ingredients. In contrast, using menstrual blood results in the creation of a basilisk, the serpent that could kill with a single glance.

Despite being way out there, the creation of live from matter in general was not controversial at the time. It was widely believed that life could spontaneously appear as evidenced for instance by the appearance of worms and insects in mud and decaying organisms.

The image is a 19th century illustration that accompanied Goethe's Faust.

"The Great World History Book"


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