1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 41

That in and of itself didn’t mean Phillip didn’t have a doctorate. All it really meant was that he hadn’t been awarded one by Padua before Professor Casseri’s death. It was possible, he thought, that Phillip had earned his degree at some other university, such as Basel or Leiden, which raised another point. Phillip’s lack of proper academic training was obvious. So how did he find a school willing to let him take their exams? Without a bachelor’s degree no reputable medical school would accept him. Except, that is, unless he found himself a new sponsor. Zacharias smiled. He’d seen with his own two eyes Phillip’s ability to attract sponsors. Happy that it was possible Phillip had in fact been awarded a doctorate, the proof of which had unfortunately been lost when his home and laboratory had been burned down, Zacharias turned his mind to other things, such as the experiments he could conduct with Phillip’s new, super strong yellow aqua fortis.

Winter 1630-31

The public anatomy demonstration was running night and day so as to maximize the learning opportunities before the stench of the decomposing body being dissected became too strong, so it was near midnight when Phillip stumbled out of the anatomy theater at Jena and joined the flow of spectators leaving after the last session of the day.

“Is it always like this?” Casparus asked Phillip.

Phillip raised a brow to his patron. “The long hours?” he asked.

“That, and the stench,” Casparus said.

“There’s not a lot you can do about the long hours,” Phillip said with a smile. “Once it’s been cut open a cadaver might last three days before the stench becomes intolerable. So it’s normal practice to continue night and day until the stench is unbearable.”

“This cadaver is into the fourth day,” Casparus pointed out.

“And it smells like it too,” Phillip agreed. “Professor Rolfinck’s problem is he only has two cadavers to dissect over the duration of his anatomy course compared with the up to nine Professor Casseri had for his anatomy courses in Padua. He’s obviously trying to get as much teaching time out of each of them as he can, but I think he’s going to have to accept that he can’t continue with this cadaver and dissect some animals until the other convict is executed.”

“Ah, yes, that reminds me.” Casparus smiled at Phillip. “I’m putting together a party to attend the execution. Would you care to join us? I have a table with a good view of the scaffold.”

Phillip managed not to cringe. Death was no stranger to him, but watching a man being led to his death amidst a cheering and jeering crowd turned his stomach. “Thank you for the offer, Herr Menius, but if you don’t mind, I don’t want to miss any of Professor Rolfinck’s lectures.”

“You’ll be missing a fine spectacle,” Casparus said.

“Yes,” Phillip agreed, “but unfortunately, I need to attend all of Professor Rolfinck’s lectures if I want to keep abreast of discoveries and developments in our understanding of the human body.”

“Ah, you think you might learn something new to help in your investigations into the invigoration of the Quinta Essentia of the Human Humors?”

“Yes!” Philip said. It wasn’t exactly a lie. There had already been Dr. Harvey’s theory of the circulatory system since he left Basel, and surgeons had been bleeding patients for centuries in an attempt to balance the human humors. No doubt there were plenty of other, less well publicized, advances that had passed him by in the five years he’d been in the relative backwater of Anlaby, England.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you in the theater again first thing tomorrow morning,” Casparus said.

Phillip and waved Casparus away before setting off for his lodgings.

A week later

Phillip should have gone to the execution with Casparus. It wasn’t that Casparus deliberately set out to cause trouble, but his memory of what Phillip had actually said when he compared dissections in Padua with those in Jena wasn’t the best, and if Phillip had been there, he could have provided corrections or clarifications. But he hadn’t been there, and comments attributed to him took on a life of their own as each person repeated what they thought they’d heard to the next person in the chain. Thus, what finally reached Professor Werner Rolfinck’s ears bore little resemblance to Phillip’s original comments. Of course, Werner didn’t know that. As a result, instead of entering the medical faculty staff room buoyed by a successful public anatomy course, he entered the staffroom fuming at the insult he believed had been leveled at him.

“What do any of you know about this Dr. Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz?” Werner demanded of his senior teaching staff.

“I’ve heard that in Erfurt he claimed to be able to make gold from pollen,” Conrad “Kunz” Herbers, a lecturer in iatrochemistry and theories of medicine, said.

“That’s impossible,” Werner said. “You can’t make gold, and anyone who claims that they can is a fake and a charlatan.”

“My informant was most insistent that he saw Dr. Gribbleflotz make gold from nothing more than some magic pollen, quicksilver, sulphur, salt, and some mystical elixir, the secret of which he learned from a Jewish scholar,” Kunz said.

“That only convinces me he’s a charlatan,” Werner said. “He should be chased out of Jena.”

“I’ve heard that he makes a most excellent ointment for hemorrhoids,” Wilhelm “Willi” Hofacker, a senior lecturer in iatrochemistry and medical botany, offered.

“Really?” Kunz asked. “How well does it work?

“Kunz!” Werner roared.

Kunz jumped back in surprise. “I’m sorry, Professor Rolfinck.”

“And so you should be. We have a charlatan in our midst, and all you can think about are your hemorrhoids.”

“You have hemorrhoids, Kunz?” Willi asked.

Kunz nodded. “They’ve been bothering me for over a week now, and nothing I’ve tried has . . .”

“Dr. Herbers!” Werner roared. “I said we were not interested in your hemorrhoids. I wish to discuss how we can get rid of this charlatan.”

“Ah, Werner,” Zacharias said.

Werner spun round to face Zacharias. “What? Are you suffering from hemorrhoids too?”

Zacharias shook his head. “I think you should know that Dr. Gribbleflotz was apprenticed to Professor Giulio Casseri, and studied medical botany under Professor Prospero Alpini. He also spent a couple of years with Professor Gaspard Bauhin in Basel.”

Werner stared hard at Zacharias. “And how do you know this?”

“Dr. Gribbleflotz told me,” Zacharias admitted.

Werner snorted. “All three men are dead,” he pointed out. “We have only the charlatan’s word that he knew them.”

Zacharias shook his head. “Dr. Gribbleflotz matches the descriptions I’ve heard of Professor Casseri’s last apprentice, and Professor Alpini’s son is still in Padua,” he said. “And,” he added, “Dr. Gribbleflotz said he got to know Professor Bauhin’s son in Basel.”

“He’s a charlatan,” Werner insisted. “And I want him run out of Jena.”

“I wouldn’t be so fast, Werner. Dr. Gribbleflotz has a patron,” Zacharias warned.

“A patron?” Werner scoffed. “Who cares if the charlatan has a patron? I’ll soon have this Dr. Gribbleflotz out of Jena, and his patron will be thanking me for saving him from the charlatan.”

“Casparus Ludovicus Menius,” Zacharias said in the middle of Werner’s tirade.

Werner froze. “Our Casparus Ludovicus Menius?” he asked.

“Yes,” Zacharias agreed, “the wine merchant responsible for the high prices the Winzerla vintages have been receiving lately. Oh, and who is also a close friend of Jacob Berger in Erfurt.”

Werner swallowed. The income from the Winzerla vintages was one of the major sources of the university’s financial support, and both Casparus Menius and Jacob Berger were major players in the trade. If he went after That Charlatan Gribbleflotz, they could put pressure on the university, and he could lose his position. “Then I shall have to collect evidence that this Dr. Gribbleflotz is nothing but a charlatan. Then the university’s governors will have no choice but to deal with the charlatan.”

Willi looked up smiling. “Does that mean it’s okay for me to buy some of Dr. Gribbleflotz’ hemorrhoid ointment?”

Werner glared at Willi. “Do what you want,” he said before stalking out of the room.