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Homunculus

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Written by Yigit Efe Nas


Homunculus (“Little human beings”) experiments are being made in order to create small human beings. Homunculus experiments are being made by transferring human sperm into a different animal. Majority of these animals are laying animals; because, the shell provides the best developing environment to the creature (5).


The first written source towards Homunculus is Paracelsus’s(1493-1541) De Natura Rerum(1537). In this book, Paracelsus mentioned what a Homunculus looks like and how a Homunculus can be created (2).


Paracelsus depicted Homunculus as a short human with huge hands and a mouth. And Paracelsus explained the process to create a Homunculus as: A man's sperm will be putrefied in a sealed cucurbit for forty days in a horse’s womb until it comes to life and starts to move itself. After that, it will look like a man; however, without a body. It needs to be fed with the Arcanum of human blood. The blood will make it nourished for up to forty weeks. As a result, a child will be born but much smaller (2).


Nicolaas Hartsoeker is a Dutch naturalist who was born 1656. He made lots of contributions to embryology, including the first observation of the human sperm cell under a microscope. In 1694, in a book named Essai de Dioptrique, he made a homunculus sketch in the head of spermatozoa in the shape Paracelsus defined (1).


In 1937, Wilder Penfield and Edwin Boldrey made a model of a human body called Cortical Homunculus based on a human's neurological map in an amorphous Homunculus shape with a proportion which shows the human body's parts and brain. Cortical Homunculus has 2 different types named Motor Homunculus and Sensory Homunculus (4).


Primary Motor Cortex is an important aspect of the Motor Homunculus and it is interested in signals transmitting through frontal lobes. Motor Homunculus is a representative map of the neurological connections with focusing on the neurological system (4).


Sensory Homunculus is the topographic representation of the body found in the cerebral cortex. This topography is reflected on the postcentral gyrus (3).


Art gets inspired from science a lot. Therefore, there are lots of works of art about Homunculus. Films such as Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Homunculus (1916), and Fullmetal Alchemist(2001) are some of the examples. Moreover, there are games which use Homunculus either such as Dungeons & Dragons and Ragnarok Online. These artworks made Homunculus more popular and brought some attention into the study field (5).


In modern times, not only alchemists, but also common people started to try to create Homunculus. Even though Paracelsus portrayed Homunculus as a small human being, some people tried to create a Homunculus. From the videos, it seems like some of them managed to create a Homunculus, yet lots of these videos are fake. If some of them are real, none of them looks like Paracelsus’s description.Some of them look like snails with 3 eyes or like a small sphere thing or something else.


Homunculus is an interesting study field; therefore, lots of different scientists made experiments about Homunculus. Including Hartsoeker's experiments, and the human body’s model made by Penfield and Boldrey. However, Homunculus is some kind of a fictional thing. Additionally, a human sperm cannot fertilize inside other animals. Still, in the past 5 centuries, after Paracelsus mentioned Homunculus in his book; with the contributions of the artworks and scientists studies, Homunculus became more popular timely.


References:

1 - Lawrence, C. R. (2008, August 13). The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Homunculus | The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/homunculus.

2 - Magazine, P. (2020, April 18). How to build a guy in 40 days: Paracelsus' 'Homunculus' recipe. pelicanmagazine.com.au. Retrieved from https://pelicanmagazine.com.au/2020/04/18/how-to-build-a-guy-in-40-days-paracelsus-homunculus-recipe/.

3 - Nguyen, J. D., & Duong, H. (2021, July 26). Neurosurgery, sensory homunculus. StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549841/

4 - Samanthi. (2019, October 14). Difference between motor and sensory homunculus. Compare the Difference Between Similar Terms. Retrieved from https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-motor-and-sensory-homunculus/

5 - Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, February 5). Homunculus. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus#History.

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