'Little man'

A tiny artificial man produced by alchemy. Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim Paracelsus (1490-1541), the great German physician and alchemist, probably was the first alchemist to create a homunculus. Paracelsus demonstraded that the limus terrae, from which the body of man is created, is really an extract of all things already in existence. Therefore he reasoned that it should be possible to create new life by discovering the constituents of this extract.

In his experiments he placed human semen, various herbs, and certain other compounds in a sealed vial, which was then incubated for forty days in a vat of horse manure. When he opened the vial he found a tiny creature he described as a homunculus, which may be freely translated as 'little man'.

Paracelsus kept the homunculus alive by feeding it human blood, but the experiment was abruptly terminated by the death of the alchemist in mysterious circumstances. Unfortunately he was a very arrogant personality, who had even assumed the name Paracelsus to show that he was greater than the great philosopher Celsus (circa 178 AD) and he made many enemies. These said that Paracelsus died of alcoholism, but his defenders claim that other alchemists, jealous of his wisdom, had him thrown down a flight of steps.

Presumably the homunculus also perished, and no researchers have been able to discover the secret of Paracelsus' compound.