Basilius Valentinus, also known under the Anglicized version of his name, Basil Valentine, was a 15th-century alchemist, who has become a legend in the history of science, lived and worked in a German monastery. Basil Valentine was the Canon of the Benedictine Priory of Sankt Peter in Erfurt, Germany. Even his name cannot be corroborated; during the 18th century it was suggested that he was Johann Tholde. The year given for his birth in Mainz, 1394, is also uncertain.
Valentine showed that ammonia could be obtained by the action of alkalies on sal-ammoniac, and how hydrochloric acid could be produced from acidizing brine.
Basil Valentine according to the best historical traditions, was a Benedictine monk. The name Basil Valentine may only have been a pseudonym, for it has been impossible to trace it among the records of the monasteries of the time. That the writer was a monk, however, there seems to be no room for doubt, for his writings give abundant evidence of it, and, besides, in printed form they began to have their vogue at a time when there was lithe likelihood of their being attributed to a monastic source, unless an indubitable tradition connected them with some monastery.
This Basil Valentine (to accept the only name we have) did so much for the science of the composition of substances that lie eminently deserves the designation that has been given him of the last of the alchemists and the first of the chemists. There is practically a universal recognition of the fact now that he deserves also the title of the Founder of Pharmaceutieal Chemistry, not only because of the value of the observations contained in his writings, but also because of the fact that they proved so suggestive to certain scientific geniuses during the century succeeding Valentine's life. Almost more than to have added to the precious heritage of knowledge for mankind, it is a boon for a scientific observer to have awakened the spirit of observation in others, and to be the founder of a new school of thought. This Basil Valentine undoubtedly did, and, in the Renaissance, the incentive from his writings for such men as Paracelsus is easy to appreciate.
Besides, his work furnishes evidence that the investigating spirit was abroad just when it is usually supposed not to have been, for the Thuringian monk surely did not do all his investigation alone, but must have owed, as well as given, many a suggestion to his contemporaries.
Some ten years ago, when Sir Michael Foster, professor of physiology in the University of Cambridge, England, was invited to deliver the Lane Lectures at the Cooper Medical College in San Francisco, lie took for his subject " The History of Physiology." In the course of his lecture on " The Rise of Chemical Physiology " lie began with the name of Basil Valentine, who first attracted men's attention to the many chemical substances around them that might be used in the treatment of disease, and said of him:
" He was one of the alchemists, but in addition to Isis inquiries into the properties of metals and his search for the philosopher's stone, he busied himself with the nature of drugs, vegetable and mineral, and with their action as remedies for disease. He was no anatomist, no physiologist, but rather what nowadays we should call a pharmacologist. He did not care for the problem of the body, all lie sought to understand was how the constituents of the soil and of plants might he treated so as to be available for healing the sick and how they produced their effects. We apparently owe to him the introduction of many chemical substances, for instance of hydrochloric acid, which he prepared from oil and vitriol of salt, and of many vegetable drugs. And lie was apparently the author of certain conceptions which, as we shall see, played an important part in the development. of chemistry and of physiology. To him, it seems, we owe the idea of the three elements,' as they were and have been called, replacing the old idea of the ancients of the four elements--earth, air, fire, and water. It. must be remembered, however, that both in the ancient and the new idea the word element was not intended to mean that which it means to us now, a fundamental unit of matter, but a general quality or property of matter. The three elements of Valentine were; (1) sulphur, or that which is combustible, which is changed or destroyed, or which at all events disappears during burning or combustion ; (2) mercury, that which temporarily disappears during burning or combustion, which is dissociated in the burning from the body burnt, but which may be recovered, that is to say, that which is volatile, and (3) salt, that which is fixed, the residue or ash which remains after burning."
Most famous works (in Latin)
* Currus Triumphalis Antimonii (The triumphal chariot of antimony)
* Duodecim Claves philosophic? (The twelve philosophical keys)
Many other works (in Latin and German)
* Porta sophica
* The Medicine of Metals
* Of things natural and supernatural
* Of the first tincture, root and spirit of metals
* De microcosmo deque magno mundi mysterio, et medicina hominis, (Of the microcosm, of the great secrecy of the world, and the human medicine)
* Libri quattuor de particularibus septem planetarum, (Book four: Of the features of the seven planets)
* Experimenta chymica
* Compendium veritatis philosophicum (German)
* Last will and testament
Valentinus had connections to the esoteric Freemasonry as his work Azoth proves (VA05, REBIS with the freemasonry square and compasses in the hands). Behind his works stood the secret knowledge of spiritual alchemy, the Opus Magnum.