The Practice And History Of Alchemy Chemistry Essay

Alchemy, derived from the Arabic word al-kimia ( O§U„U?USU…USO§O? , ALA-LC: al-kA«miyA? ‘ ) , is both a doctrine and an ancient pattern focused on the effort to alter base metals into gold, look intoing the readying of the “ elixir of length of service ” , and accomplishing ultimate wisdom, affecting the betterment of the alchemist every bit good as the devising of several substances described as possessing unusual belongingss. The practical facet of chemistry can be viewed as a protoscience, holding generated the rudimentss of modern inorganic chemical science, viz. refering processs, equipment and the designation and usage of many current substances.

Alchemy has been practiced in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia ( modern Iraq ) , India, Persia ( modern Iran ) , China, Japan, Korea, the classical Greco-Roman universe, the medieval Islamic universe, and so medieval Europe up to the twentieth century and twenty-first Century, in a complex web of schools and philosophical systems crossing at least 2,500 old ages.

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What existed before modern Chemistry?

After the decease of Alexander the Great of Macedon ( 323 B.C. ) , much of the conquered districts in the Persian Empire that were located in the Middle East and northern Africa, began to fade out. Ptolemy, one of Alexander ‘s generals, established a land on the coast-line of Egypt.

As its capital, Alexandria was considered to be one of the most culturally diverse metropoliss in the universe at that clip ; Ptolemy and Ptolemy II founded the Temple to The Muses, otherwise known as “ The Museum ” , to go on scholarly activities and surveies of the twenty-four hours.

“ The Museum ” could be considered an equivalent to a university or a research establishment by today ‘s criterions.

At the Temple of The Muses, Greek doctrine, considered to be the footing for western-scientific thoughts and logical thinking, fused with local Egyptian khemeia, the ancient art, faith, and ceremonials of embalming the dead to make Greek-Egyptian khemia. Because the art of khemeia had been shrouded in mysticism, faith, and the close linguistic communication of vague symbols, common people were afraid of the practicians and their apparently unsafe yet powerful cognition of chemicals.

There were two major unfortunate by-products of Greek-Egyptian khemeia that were a consequence of these deep patterns and vague linguistic communications and symbols. First, the close nature of this field slowed its patterned advance so that no 1 could gain from another ‘s errors or learn from another ‘s glare. Second, anyone who spoke in the vague linguistic communications and symbols of Greek- Egyptian khemeia could n’t be understood, so merely about anyone who could do up absurd words could go through as a bookman.

As clip passed, Greek-Egyptian khemeia began to fall farther into obscureness, where shady patterns of genius, thaumaturgy, and black magic seemed to boom in mysticism. Of these, a Greek- Egyptian by the name of Bolos of Mendes ( c. 200 B.C. ) promised a tool which would let for ways of turning common metals, such as lead and Fe, into gold and Ag. Although it was non wholly understood how this would be done, this tool, referred to as The Philosopher ‘s Stone, was the dream of many. Although The Philosopher ‘s Stone has ne’er been found, the existent hunt for it has assisted in the survey of metallurgy and methodological analysiss of modern twenty-four hours chemical science by polishing many of the practical research lab techniques, accomplishments, and glasswork that are still used today, such as those used in distillment, filtration, crystallisation, curdling, vaporization, and extraction.

In 4th century A.D. , because Roman Emperor Diocletian feared that a inexpensive beginning of Ag and gold could ruin the already rickety Roman economic system and Pope Zosimus ‘s acknowledgment that Greek-Egyptian khemeia was a pattern of “ heathen acquisition ” , small was done to halt the devastation of the Alexandrian Museum and its libraries by Christian public violences. As a consequence, the survey of Greek-Egyptian khemeia went belowground and would stay as a concealed pattern until the seventh century, where it emerged in the middle-east.

In the early seventh century, Arabic tribes unified and began to suppress much of the middle-east, western Asia, and northern Africa. These suppressing ground forcess shortly began to process on Eastern Europe, where the dwellers of Constantinople, with the aid of a khemeia practising Greek-Egyptian named Callinicus, used Grecian fire as a signifier of defence against the interlopers ( 670 A.D. ) . Grecian Fire, a flammable mixture of sulfur, namptha, and quicklime, was placed into a bronze tubing, mounted on a palace wall or the bow of a ship, and was lit by a torch to spurt fire at anyone who approached. Although this method was able to stave off some of the onslaughts by land and sea, the Arabic forces shortly gained control of Constantinople, discovered the doctrine of Grecian scientific discipline, and began to use the patterns of Greek-Egyptian khemeia for their benefit.

In Arabic, Greek-Egyptian khemeia was translated into the term al-kimiya, booming non merely as a scientific discipline of metallurgy, but with the counsel of

Jabir ibn-Hayann ( c.760-815A.D. ) , its usage in medical specialty as good.

It was Al-Razi ( c.850- 925A.D. ) , nevertheless, who perfected the usage of plaster of Paris in repairing broken bone, His punctilious ability to logically form his notes and Hagiographas showed the importance of lucidity with research lab processs to the point where he became the first to document and depict the comparings between variola and varicella.

Many of his plants were translated into Latin about 600 old ages subsequently and made an impact on lab methodological analysiss of executing medical specialty and other experimental research that are still used today.

With all of the practical facets that al-kimiya had to offer, it ever had a manner of returning to the mystical and what we may mention to today as non-scientific patterns. Not merely was there a hunt for The Philosopher ‘s Stone, but with a broadened focal point on medical specialties within al-kimiya, happening a individual remedy for all illnesss, The Elixir or Life, and detecting a potion for keeping young person, The Fountain of Youth, became some of the new mystical hoarded wealths. With these new promises of charming find, al-kimiya remained in a shroud of enigma and the survey of chemicals was still considered a dark trade.

As western European Reformers clashed with Arabic Armies in the southern and eastern Europe, an intermingling of thoughts and different civilizations gave manner to growing and grasp of Arabic humanistic disciplines, scientific discipline, and mathematics in the West. By the clip the last Moresque fastnesss in Western Europe were pushed from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century, it became of all time so clear that the Latin interlingual renditions of Arabic scientific disciplines and mathematics would forever alter the West, therefore conveying a stopping point to The Medieval Ages and an gap to the Scientific Renaissance.

Known as chemistry, by the Latin interlingual rendition from the Arabic term al-kimiya, its pattern thrived in Europe after being gone for about 800 old ages. Although it was still considered “ heathen larning ” in some circles, it thrived in belowground communities where the hunt for the three mysterious hoarded wealths of The Philosophers Stone, the Elixir of Life, and the Fountain of Youth continued.

As Bombastus von Hohenheim ( 1493-1541A.D. ) , better known as Paracelsus, studied the medical plants of earlier alchemists, in peculiar Al-Razi, he believed that seeking for remedies by alchemical agencies could hold a big impact on medical specialty, besides. Until Paracelsus, merely organic works readyings were used for remedies and redresss in handling diseases, but he believed that minerals synthesized in the lab were the key to the hereafter of wellness attention. Although he gained many followings, his attempts would n’t be recognized by traditional European medical specialty, since he was considered an alchemist. In fact, it would be good over a century after his decease until others would acknowledge his attempts and set them into pattern.

One of Paracelsus ‘ followings and fellow practician of chemistry, Andreas Libau ( 1540-1616A.D. ) , wanted to convey more lucidity and reason to this field. In 1597 he published ALCHEMIA, which summarized mediaeval accomplishments of chemistry, composing with lucidity and with minimum mysticism. When theories based upon mysticism were ineluctable, he would reluctantly include them and mention to them as “ Paracelsians ” . This book was radical for the field of medical specialty, the emerging field of a more scientific-based chemistry, and for western scientific discipline in general because it was one of the first known efforts in dividing scientific facts of chemical science from mysticism.

Like Al-Razi, Andreas Libau set a criterion for alchemists by certification of of import research lab methods and accomplishments in the readying of medicative chemicals within his publications, explicating how mineral salts and acids could be used as bring arounding complaints. It was n’t until Johann Rudolf Glauber ( 1604-1668A.D. ) , nevertheless, that research lab method and processs would take to the synthesis of Sodium Sulfate, Na2SO4.10H2O ( s ) , besides known as “ Glauber ‘s Salt ” . He found that it non merely made a mild laxative for medicative intents, but when produced in mass measures it could be commercialized to the general populace to do a net income.


The word chemistry derives from the Old French alquimie, which is from the Medieval Latin alchimia, and which is in bend from the Arabic al-kimia ( O§U„U?USU…USO§O? ) . This term itself is derived from the Ancient Greek chemeia ( I‡I·I?IµI?I± ) with the add-on of the Arabic definite article al- ( O§U„UˆaˆZ ) .It used to be thought that the ancient Greek word was originally derived in its bend from “ Chemia ” ( I§I·I?I?I± ) , a version of the Egyptian name for Egypt, which was itself based on the Ancient Egyptian word kA“me ( hieroglyphic Khmi, black Earth, as opposed to abandon sand ) . Some now think that the word originally derived from chumeia ( I‡I…I?IµI?I± ) intending “ mixture ” and mentioning to pharmaceutical chemical science. With the ulterior rise of chemistry in Alexandria, the word may hold been erroneously thought by ancient authors to deduce from I§I·I?I?I± , and therefore became spelt as I‡I·I?IµI?I± , and the original significance forgotten. The inquiry of the etymology of the word chemistry is still unfastened, and recent research indicates that the Egyptian derivation of the word may be valid.

Alchemy as a philosophical and religious subject

Alchemy became known as the spagyric art after Grecian words intending to divide and to fall in together in the sixteenth century, the word likely being coined by Paracelsus. Compare this with one of the pronouncements of Alchemy in Latin: Solve et CoagulaA – Separate, and Join Together ( or “ dissolve and coagulate ” ) .

The best-known ends of the alchemists were the transubstantiation of common metals into gold ( called chrysopoeia ) or Ag ( less good known is works chemistry, or “ spagyric ” ) ; the creative activity of a “ Panacea ” , or the elixir of life, a redress that, it was supposed, would bring around all diseases and prolong life indefinitely ; and the find of a cosmopolitan dissolver. Although these were non the lone uses for the subject, they were the 1s most documented and well-known. Certain Hermetic schools argue that the transubstantiation of lead into gold is analogical for the transubstantiation of the physical organic structure ( Saturn or lead ) into ( Gold ) with the end of achieving immortality. This is described as Internal Alchemy. Get downing with the Middle Ages, Persian and European alchemists invested much attempt in the hunt for the “ philosopher ‘s rock ” , a legendary substance that was believed to be an indispensable ingredient for either or both of those ends. Pope John XXII issued a bull against alchemical counterfeiting, and the Cistercians banned the pattern amongst their members. In 1403, Henry IV of England banned the pattern of Alchemy. In the late fourteenth century, Piers the Ploughman and Chaucer both painted uncomplimentary images of Alchemists as stealers and prevaricators. By contrast, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the late sixteenth century, sponsored assorted alchemists in their work at his tribunal in Prague.

It is a popular belief that Alchemists made parts to the “ chemical ” industries of the day-ore testing and refinement, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, pigments, cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics, glass industry, readying of infusions, spiritss, and so on ( it seems that the readying of aqua vitae, the “ H2O of life ” , was a reasonably popular “ experiment ” among European alchemists ) . Alchemists contributed distillment to Western Europe. The dual beginning of Alchemy in Greek doctrine every bit good as in Egyptian and Mesopotamian engineering set, from the start, a dual attack: the technological, operative one, which Marie-Louise von Franz call extrovert, and the mysterious, brooding, psychological one, which von Franz names as introvert. These are non reciprocally sole, but complementary alternatively, as speculation requires pattern in the existent universe, and conversely.

Several early alchemists, such as Zosimos of Panopolis, are recorded as sing chemistry as a religious subject, and, in the Middle Ages, metaphysical facets, substances, physical provinces, and molecular stuff processes as mere metaphors for religious entities, religious provinces, and, finally, transmutations. In this sense, the actual significances of ‘Alchemical Formulas ‘ were a blind, concealing their true religious doctrine, which being at odds with the Medieval Christian Church was a necessity that could hold otherwise led them to the “ interest and rack ” of the Inquisition under charges of unorthodoxy. Therefore, both the transubstantiation of common metals into gold and the cosmopolitan Panacea symbolized development from an progressive, diseased, bribable, and passing province towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible, and everlasting province ; and the philosopher ‘s rock so represented a mysterious key that would do this development possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin end symbolized his development from ignorance to enlightenment, and the rock represented a concealed religious truth or power that would take to that end. In texts that are written harmonizing to this position, the deep alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagination of late alchemical plants typically contain multiple beds of significances, fables, and mentions to other every bit deep plants ; and must be laboriously “ decoded ” in order to detect their true significance.


Alchemic symbolism has been on occasion used by psychologists and philosophers. Carl Jung reexamined alchemical symbolism and theory and began to demo the interior significance of alchemical work as a religious way. Alchemic doctrine, symbols and methods have enjoyed something of a Renaissance in post-modern contexts.

Jung saw alchemy as a Western proto-psychology dedicated to the accomplishment of individualization. In his reading, chemistry was the vas by which Gnosticism survived its assorted purgings into the Renaissance, a construct besides followed by others such as Stephan A. Hoeller. In this sense, Jung viewed alchemy as comparable to Yoga of the East, as and more adequate to the Western head than Eastern faiths and doctrines. The pattern of Alchemy seemed to alter the head and spirit of the Alchemist. Conversely, self-generated alterations on the head of Western people undergoing any of import phase in individualization seems to bring forth, on juncture, imagination known to Alchemy and relevant to the individual ‘s state of affairs.

His reading of Chinese alchemical texts in footings of his analytical psychological science besides served the map of comparing Eastern and Western alchemical imagination and nucleus constructs and hence its possible inner beginnings ( originals ) .

Marie-Louise von Franz, a adherent of Jung, continued Jung ‘s surveies on Alchemy and its psychological significance.

Alchemy as a topic of historical research

The history of chemistry has become a vigorous academic field. As the vague hermetic linguistic communication of the alchemists is bit by bit being “ deciphered ” , historiographers are going more cognizant of the rational connexions between that subject and other aspects of Western cultural history, such as the sociology and psychological science of the rational communities, Kabbalism, spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, and other mysterious motions, cryptanalysis, witchery, and the development of scientific discipline and doctrine.

Modern connexions to alchemy

Iranian chemistry was a precursor of modern scientific chemical science. Alchemists used many of the same research lab tools that are used today. These tools were non normally sturdy or in good status, particularly during the mediaeval period of Europe. Many transubstantiation efforts failed when alchemists inadvertently made unstable chemicals. This was made worse by the insecure conditions in which the alchemists worked.

Up to the sixteenth century, chemistry was considered serious scientific discipline in Europe ; for case, Isaac Newton devoted well more of his authorship to the survey of chemistry ( see Isaac Newton ‘s supernatural surveies ) than he did to either optics or natural philosophies, for which he is celebrated. Other high alchemists of the Western universe are Roger Bacon, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Tycho Brahe, Thomas Browne, and Parmigianino. The diminution of chemistry began in the eighteenth century with the birth of modern chemical science, which provided a more precise and dependable model for affair transubstantiations and medical specialty, within a new expansive design of the existence based on rational philistinism.

Alchemy in traditional medical specialty

Traditional medical specialties involve transubstantiation by chemistry, utilizing pharmacological or a combination of pharmacological and religious techniques. In Chinese medicine the alchemical traditions of pao zhi will transform the nature of the temperature, gustatory sensation, organic structure portion accessed or toxicity. In Ayurveda the samskaras are used to transform heavy metals and toxic herbs in a manner that removes their toxicity. These procedures are actively used to the present twenty-four hours.

Nuclear transubstantiation

In 1919, Ernest Rutherford used unreal decomposition to change over N into O. From so on, this kind of scientific transubstantiation has been routinely performed in many atomic physics-related research labs and installations, like atom gas pedals, atomic power Stationss and atomic arms as a byproduct of fission and other physical procedures.

In literature

Sir Thomas Malory uses Alchemy as a motive that underlies the personal, psychological, and aesthetic development of Sir Gareth of Orkney in Le Morte d’Arthur.Sir Gareth ‘s quest parallels the procedure of Alchemy in that he foremost undergoes the nigredo stage by get the better ofing the black knight and have oning his armour. After this, Gareth defeats knights stand foring the four elements, thereby subsuming their power. In contending and get the better ofing the Red Knight ( the overall intent of his pursuit ) he undergoes and passes the rubedo stage. Gareth, toward the terminal of his quest, accepts a ring from his fancy man, Lyoness, which transforms his armour into being multicolored. This alludes to the panchromatic philosopher ‘s rock, and while he is in motley armour, he is unbeatable.

A drama by Ben Jonson, the Alchemist, is a satirical and disbelieving return on the topic.

Part 2 of Goethe ‘s Faust, is full of alchemical symbolism. Harmonizing to Hermetic Fictions: Alchemy and Irony in the Novel ( Keele University Press, 1995 ) , by David Meakin, chemistry is besides featured in such novels and verse forms as those by William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emile Zola, Jules Verne, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, James Joyce, Gustav Meyrink, Lindsay Clarke, Marguerite Yourcenar, Umberto Eco, Michel Butor, Paulo Coelho, Amanda Quick, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Maria Szepes.

Hilary Mantel, in her fresh Fludd ( 1989, Penguin ) , mentions the spagyric art. ‘After separation, drying out, washing, fade outing, cloting, fermenting, comes purification, recombination: the creative activity of substances the universe until now has ne’er beheld. This is the opus Contra naturem, this is the spagyric art, this is the Alchymical Wedding ‘ .

In Dante ‘s Inferno, it is placed within the Tenth ring of the 8th circle.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher ‘s Stone, there are several mentions to Nicholas Flamel, and a rock that could turn metal into gold and make an elixir of immortality was sought after by both the scoundrels and Harry and friends, for different grounds.

In modern-day art

In the 20th century chemistry was a deeply of import beginning of inspiration for the Surrealist creative person Max Ernst, who used the symbolism of chemistry to inform and steer his work. M.E. Warlick wrote his Max Ernst and Alchemy depicting this relationship in item.

Contemporary creative persons use chemistry as animating capable affair, like Odd Nerdrum, whose involvement has been noted by Richard Vine, and the painter Michael Pearce, whose involvement in chemistry dominates his work. His works Fama and the Aviator ‘s Dream peculiarly express alchemical thoughts in a painted fable.

The Rise and Demise of Phlogiston, the Birth of Modern Chemistry, and the importance

of Measurement

Chemistry ( 1600A.D. to show )

Originated and published by J. J. Becher in the late seventeenth century diary Opuscula Chymica Rariora, approximately translated as ‘The Work of Rare Chemistry ‘ , it was known as the first efforts to explicate chemical combustion and rusting. Becher said that many common twenty-four hours stuffs contained a substance called phlogiston, translated from Greek, intending ‘to set on fire ‘ . G. E. Stahl, a medical physician of the same clip period and a advocate of phlogiston, explained in a separate publication that:

“ all inflammable objects contained phlogiston which made it possible for them to fire, and as the object burned, phlogiston was poured out into the air. Wood and coal contained a great trade of it, the ashes left after firing did non. ”

Since communicating of scientific finds was now common topographic point, Stahl supported his theory with punctilious research lab processs and qualitative observations. Some of the qualitative observations he made while firing phlogiston rich substances are listed below:

1. Fires extinguish in air-tight infinite because air becomes saturated with phlogiston.

2. Charcoal leaves small residue upon combustion because it is about pure phlogiston.

3. Mice dice in air-tight infinite because air saturates with phlogiston.

Phlogiston was considered to be a massless or near massless substance, since no measuring device had of all time existed that could by experimentation mensurate it. Because of this inability to quantify the mass of phlogiston, qualitative experimentation, which was limited to the description of the five human senses of sight, sound, odor, gustatory sensation, and touch, was the lone manner in which the phlogiston theory could be supported.

Another qualitative grounds of phlogiston theory was the white pulverization residue or rust that was found on the surface of Sn after it was heated in the air. Besides referred to as calcium oxide, intending ‘limestone ‘ , it was believed that this is what remained after phlogiston left the Sn metal.

Working from old Sn experiments, Antoine Lavoisier ( 1743- 1794A.D. ) , a maestro of edifice preciseness instrumentality, attempted to find the mass of phlogiston with a mass balance that he had manufactured. After evacuating air from a glass vas that contained Sn Filings, he so sealed and began to heat it on his preciseness mass balance. If the phlogiston theory were right, he could open the vas let the phlogiston flight, and eventually quantify a value that had eluded scientists for 5 decennaries.

As Lavoisier opened the het glass vas, he alternatively measured a little addition in mass, which went against the phlogiston theory wholly. Although other scientists who held steadfast to the phlogiston theory would do rebuttals that phlogiston must so hold a negative mass, these efforts would fall abruptly as other experiments that utilised preciseness measurings began to roll up. For the first clip in history, Lavoisier showed that a carefully designed experiment utilizing preciseness measuring engineering could be used as grounds to confute a theory. More of import than confuting the phlogiston theory was the realisation that preciseness instruments yielded of import quantitative information about the field of chemical science.

Less than a decennary subsequently, Lavoisier published his Elementary Treatise of Chemistry ( 1789 ) , which is considered the first modern chemical science text edition. In it, one could happen a good documented position of The Law of Conservation of Mass and the rejection of the being of phlogiston, along with assorted new chemical science theories and research lab techniques that relied upon BOTH qualitative descriptions and quantitative measurings with the aid of measurement engineering. It non to state that Lavoisier had all the right theories within his treatise, but instead that the field of modern twenty-four hours chemical science would emerge, depending more to a great extent upon preciseness measurings of chemical phenomena instead than the mystical impressions of chemistry, like phlogiston and the three mysterious hoarded wealths.


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