Helmont , Jan Baptista van
(1579–1644) Flemish chemist and physician
Van Helmont, who came from a noble Brussels family, was educated at the Catholic University of Louvain in medicine, mysticism, and chemistry, but declined a degree from them. Rejecting all offers of employment he devoted himself to private research at his home. In 1621 he was involved in a controversy with the Church over the belief that it was possible to heal a wound caused by a weapon by treating the weapon rather than the wound. Van Helmont did not reject this common belief but insisted that it was a natural phenomenon containing no supernatural elements. He was arrested, eventually allowed to remain under house arrest, and forbidden to publish without the prior consent of the Church. He wrote extensively and after his death his collected papers were published by his son as the Ortus medicinae (1648; Origin of Medicine).
Van Helmont rejected the works of the ancients, although he did believe in the philosopher's stone. He carried out careful observations and measurements, which led him to discover the elementary nature of water. He regarded water as the chief constituent of matter. He pointed out that fish were nourished by water and that substantial bodies could be reduced to water by dissolving them in acid. To demonstrate his theory he performed a famous experiment in which he grew a willow tree over a period of five years in a measured quantity of earth. The tree increased its weight by 164 pounds despite the fact that only water was added to it. The soil had decreased by only a few ounces.
Van Helmont also introduced the term ‘gas’ into the language, deriving it from the Greek for chaos. When a substance is burned it is reduced to its formative agent and its gas and van Helmont believed that when 62 pounds of wood is burned to an ash weighing 1 pound, 61 pounds have escaped as water or gas. Different substances give off different gases when consumed and van Helmont identified four gases, which he named gas carbonum, two kinds of gas sylvester, and gas pingue. These we would now call carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.

Scientists. . 2011.

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  • Helmont, Jan Baptista van — • Born at Brussels, 1577; died near Vilvorde, 30 December, 1644. This scientist, distinguished in the early annals of chemistry, belonged to a Flemish family Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Helmont, Jan Baptista van — born Jan. 12, 1580, Brussels, Belg. died Dec. 30, 1644, Vilvoorde, Spanish Netherlands Belgian chemist, physiologist, and physician. Though he tended to mysticism, he was a careful observer and exact experimenter. The first to recognize gases… …   Universalium

  • Helmont, Jan Baptista van — (12 ene. 1580, Bruselas, Bélgica–30 dic. 1644, Vilvoorde, Flandes español). Químico, fisiólogo y médico belga. Aunque de tendencias místicas, fue un observador meticuloso y un experimentador preciso. Fue el primero en reconocer otros gases además …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Jan Baptista van Helmont —     Jan Baptista van Helmont     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Jan Baptista van Helmont     Born at Brussels, 1577; died near Vilvorde, 30 December, 1644. This scientist, distinguished in the early annals of chemistry, belonged to a good Flemish… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Jan Baptista van Helmont — Nacimiento 12 de enero 1579 Bruselas …   Wikipedia Español

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  • Jan — /jan/; for 1 also Du., Ger. /yahn/, n. 1. a male given name, form of John. 2. a female given name, form of Janet. * * * (as used in expressions) Brueghel Jan the Elder Jan Amos Komenský Dussek Jan Ladislav Eyck Jan van Gossart Jan Jan Mabuse Jan… …   Universalium

  • Van — /van/; for 1, 2 also Turk. /vahn/, n. 1. Lake, a salt lake in E Turkey. 1454 sq. mi. (3766 sq. km). 2. a town on this lake. 88,597. 3. a male given name. * * * I City (pop., 1997: 226,965), eastern Turkey, on the eastern shore of Lake Van. The… …   Universalium

  • Jan — m. Adaptación del nombre «khan», defendida como la más conforme a la pronunciación de esta palabra en su lengua original. ⇒ Can, kan, Khan. * * * jan. m. Cuba. Vara de madera dura, rematada en una punta de hierro, que se emplea para ahoyar en la… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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