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Alchemy

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter

Published

Publication date17/09/2009
Host publicationIn Our Time: A Companion to the Radio 4 Series
EditorsMelvyn Bragg
Place of publicationLondon
PublisherHodder and Stoughton
Pages449-468
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-0340977507
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Alchemy is the ancient science of transformations. The most famous alchemical text is the Emerald Tablet, written around 500BC and attributed to the mythical Egyptian figure of Hermes Trismegistus. Among its twelve lines are the essential words - “as above, so below". They capture the essence of alchemy, that the heavens mirror the earth and that all things correspond to one another. Alchemy was taken up by some of the most extraordinary people in our intellectual development, including Roger Bacon, Paracelsus, the father of chemistry, Robert Boyle, and, most famously, Isaac Newton, who wrote more about alchemy than he did about physics. It is now contended that it was Newton’s studies into alchemy which gave him the fundamental insight into the famous three laws of motion and gravity.

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