Alchemy Essay, Research Paper
Alchemy is not just the changing of base metals into gold as most people think, although that was one of the goals people tried to achieve through alchemy. Alchemy is stemmed from astrology; both make attempts to understand mans relationship to the universe and exploit it. While astrology is concerned with the stars alchemy is concerned with the elements of nature. Alchemy also stemmed partly from metallurgy, a science that deals with the extracting of metals form ore and the combining of metals to make alloys. Today’s modern chemistry evolved from alchemy using the extended knowledge of substances and how they react with each other.
There were several goals that alchemist tried to achieve but the driving cause behind it was to understand mans relation to the universe. Alchemists of many religions believed that they could understand the will of their god or gods through understanding the world in which they lived. However many alchemists strive for more selfish goals.
The most well known goal is the changing of metals to gold. Alchemists called this transmutation. They believed that metals such as gold as silver were pure and that the other base metals were impure or sick. If the base metals could be purified they would become gold, silver or some other precious metal. However they never succeeded We now know that changing one element in to another is impossible with out the use of a nuclear reaction, of which they had no knowledge of or any way of accidentally creating.
Another popular goal of alchemy was to make the old young again and also to gain immortality. Like changing metals it is also known as transmutation and was believed to be purification. Most of the potions they concocted made people very sick and even killed.
A lesser-known goal was to discover a substance that could bring about any desired change instantly. There were many myths about it and many names. Zosimos, an alchemist from 300A.D. first proposed the idea of such as substance. He called it the tincture also called the philosopher stone later on.
Many of the processes in alchemy were chemical thought they didn’t call it this. But there wasn’t much science involved in their mixing of substances; most of it relied on folklore and superstition. Many of the reactions the created used impure mixtures of chemicals that they regarded as a substance not knowing that they were using several different chemicals at once.
For many alchemists the mixing of chemicals wasn’t as important as the chanting and incantations the said while they made their potions and elixirs. In fact this lead to myth of magic and witchcraft where spells were cast using only spoken words. Many of the practices of early alchemy, which was around since 300B.C., contributed to development of magical practice.
Alchemy spawned has a more credible practice than magic. That’s the science of chemistry. During the time alchemy was in use list of known substances was greatly increased and several important discoveries were made such as mineral acids. Also allot of the procedures as tools used in chemistry came from alchemy. In the 18hundreds alchemy gave way to chemistry’s more accurate results and far more scientific methods. Scientists of the 16hundreds 17hundreds and 18hundreds brought about new ideas and changed people’s way of thinking. Alchemy was thought of as wrong and actually outlawed in many places.
During the 15 hundreds and 16hundreds alchemist had a hard time practicing because many countries wouldn’t let them practice unless the worked for the sovereign of that nation. The sovereign considered them a threat, if they produced a lot of gold the sovereign’s would decrease in value however if the alchemists worked for them then they could increase their wealth. Many alchemists who didn’t work for a sovereign were often imprisoned or killed.
Encyclopedia Britannica. 1983 Ed.
Greek Alchemical History
Brehm, Edmund “Roger Bacon’s place in the history of alchemy” levity.com March, 1976: 1pg. May 17 2000