Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Severinus, Petrus

Born: 1540/1542, Ribe, Denmark
Died: 28 July 1602, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jole ShackelfordEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1106-1


Petrus Severinus, a Latinized form of Peder Sørensen, was a Danish contemporary and one-time friend of the astronomer Tycho Brahe. While a university student, Severinus learned of the novel-sounding medical ideas propounded by the Swiss-Austrian physician Paracelsus, editions of whose works were issuing from German and Swiss presses during the 1560s. Severinus and fellow student Johannes Pratensis traveled extensively in Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy from 1565 to 1571, perhaps acquiring a taste for Paracelsian and Neoplatonist ideas in Basel or Paris. In the spirit of the French physician Jean Fernel, who sought to harmonize Galen’s medicine with Platonic philosophy and thus give classical medicine a more Christian interpretation, and the Parisian physician Jacques Gohory, who educed commonalities between Paracelsus’ ideas and Neoplatonism, Severinus composed The Ideal of Philosophical Medicine (Basel, 1571) with the ostensible aim of reconciling the medicine of Paracelsus with that of the classical giants Hippocrates and Galen. Severinus’ synthesis, which used the Aristotelian embryological concept of epigenesis as a model for elaborating a basically Neoplatonist emanation theory to explain the origin and development of bodies, produced a general biological theory that Andreas Libavius termed “vital philosophy.” Severinus vitalism, positing the development of bodies from seminal ideas placed in nature by a providential God, provided an attractive explanation for medical writers, poets, and natural philosophers in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Born to bourgeois parents in provincial Jutland in 1540 or 1542, Severinus served as Royal Physician to King Frederik II of Denmark and then his son King Christian IV from 1572 until his death in 1602.

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Primary Literature

  1. Bremer, Andreas Fredericus. 1836. Dissertationis de vita et opinionibus Theophrasti Paracelsi particula posterior. Copenhagen.Google Scholar
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Secondary Literature

  1. Bastholm, Eyvind, and Hans Skov. 1979. Petrus Severinus og hans Idea medicinae philosophicae. Odense.Google Scholar
  2. Hirai, Hiro. 2005. Le concept de semence dans les théories de la matière à la Renaissance: de Marsile Ficin à Gassendi. Turnhout.Google Scholar
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  4. Pagel, Walter. 1984. The smiling spleen: Paracelsianism in storm and stress. Basel: Karger.Google Scholar
  5. Shackelford, Jole. 2004. A philosophical path for Paracelsian medicine. The ideas, intellectual context, and influence of Petrus Severinus (1540/2–1602). Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.Google Scholar
  6. Shackelford, Jole. 2015. La transplantation comme transformation chez Paracelse: de la structure à la function. In Transplanter: une approche transdisciplinaire, ed. François Delaporte, Bernard Devauchelle, and Emmanuel Fournier, 35–40. Paris.Google Scholar
  7. Shackelford, Jole. 2016. Transplantation and corpuscular identity in Paracelsian vital philosophy. In Early modern medicine and natural philosophy, ed. Peter Distelzweig, Benny Goldberg, and Evan Ragland, 229–253. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Medieval Studies, University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Hiro Hirai
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands