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Family at the Fringes: The Medico-Alchemical Careers of Johann Ruland (1575–1638) and Johann David Ruland (1604–1648?)

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The Ruland family was perhaps the most famous clan involved in alchemy and medicine in early modern Central and Eastern Europe. Yet while more prominent members of the family, such as Martin Ruland Junior (1569–1611), participated in the alchemical milieu at the court of Rudolf II in Prague, other members, farther from the centre of Empire, are also significant to the study of interconnections between early modern alchemy, science, and medicine. A case in point is the misunderstood figure of Johann David Ruland (1605–1648?), who plied his trade in the territories of Royal Hungary. His major publication, the Pharmacopoea nova (1644), introduced the rudiments of his “filth-pharmacy” (Dreckapotheke): the use of bodily waste to cure and heal certain afflictions. Yet in the secondary literature, Johann David’s life and work have often been confused with the activities of his uncle, Johann Ruland (1585–1638). The present biographical study of both Johann and Johann David seeks to disentangle their respective intellectual legacies, allowing us the opportunity to resituate both men within their respective medical and alchemical contexts.


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