The History of Alchemy

Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins University wants to rehabilitate alchemy. He believes that most alchemists were respectable knowledge seekers working with well constructed theories.

If today we associate "alchemist" with "charlatan", it is because history has given the study of alchemy a bad rap: "The most famous alchemical pursuit, chrysopoeia (the transmutation of base metals into gold), was viewed with a mixture of greed and terror by the political authorities of the time. Such knowledge might bring enormous wealth to those who had it, but it had the ability to destroy the currency. Many countries passed laws forbidding the transmutation of metals, even as their kings secretly patronised alchemy hoping to gain an advantage over other monarchs."

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