Medieval Scientists Tried To Make Tiny People From Animal Sperm, Blood And Womb
The question of how to create life goes back not just to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, when the eponymous character used forbidden science to create life. Medieval scientists tried for centuries to create miniature artificial people using human sperm mixed with other substances and implanted in an animal womb!
The homunculus is first mentioned in alchemical writings of the 16 e century. It is likely, however, that this concept is older than these writings. The idea that fully formed miniature people can be created goes back to the beginning middle ages (400 to 1000 AD), and is partly based on the Aristotelian belief that the sperm is more important than the egg in its contribution to the production of offspring.
The homunculus is a small humanoid creature believed to have been created by magical alchemical means. 19th century engraving of Homunculus from Goethe’s Faust Part II ( public domain ).
The earliest known account of the production of the homunculus is said to be in an undated Arabic work called the cow book supposedly written by the Greek philosopher Plato himself.
The materials needed to create the homunculus include human, cow or sheep semen and animal blood, while the process includes artificial insemination of the cow/sheep, by coating the genitalia of the inseminated animal with the blood of another animal and feeding it exclusively on the blood of another animal.
The pregnant animal would eventually give birth to a shapeless substance, which would then be put into a powder consisting of ground sunstone (a mystical phosphorescent elixir), sulfur, magnet, green tutia (an iron sulphate) and the sap of a white willow. . When the drop begins to grow from human skin, it should be placed in a large glass or lead container for three days. After that, he must be fed with the blood of his decapitated mother for seven days before becoming a fully formed homunculus.
16 e alchemist of the century, Philip von Hohenheim, also known as Paracelsusoffers a different recipe for creating the homunculus in his work, From Natura Rerum . This recipe uses a horse as the surrogate mother for the homunculus, and a man’s sperm is left in the animal’s belly to putrefy for forty days, before a little man is born.
Rather than using the homunculus to gain supernatural powers as some scientists hoped, Paracelsus said the homunculus should be “educated with the greatest care and zeal, until it grows up and begins to show intelligence”. Paracelsus also claims that the procedure for making the homunculus is one of the greatest secrets revealed by God to mortals, possibly suggesting that the creation of artificial life is divine wisdom that can be used by human beings.
Read more: Alchemical recipe for a Homunculus: Sperm + Rotten Meat = Artificial Mini Human
Top image: Medieval alchemists thought they could create an artificial mini human. Source: lidiia / Adobe Stock
By Caleb Strom and Wu Mingren