Topic // Science and Scientists Observed
Alchemy & Chemistry
**Alchemy was concerned with turning metals into gold and silver but this is actually a
misinterpretation. In fact this was a subordinate feature of alchemy. Alchemy was apart
of a broader study called “meteorology” which was concerned with sub-lunar phenomena
(everything under the moon). Alchemy was not concerned with theology. It was seen as a
branch of applied physics.
Alchemy in the Middle Ages
1. Meteorology: the study of sub‐lunar matter
Alchemy was apart of a broader study called “meteorology” which was concerned
with sub-lunar phenomena (everything under the moon).
Alchemy was involved in the isolation of metals like gold and silver and minerals
from metals that were combined together.
Alchemy was heavily involved with the refinement of salt. The science of salts
and how to produce salts for different purposes was a huge part of alchemy.
4.Dye & pigment
Alchemy was concerned with the development of dyes & pigment – color. The
development and creation of dye and pigments was a reason for why and how
trade-networks were established. Having color on clothing was a sign of status.
5.Glass & ceramic improvements
6.Artificial gemstone Alchemy was involved in deception? Which is highly associated with gemstones and
Alchemy was involved in the making of weapons and mainly gun powder that
was used to fire such weapons. Military uses.
Alchemy was uses to create objects like glow sticks?
Alchemy, surprinsingly was involved in the making of beer
10. Medicine & pharmaceuticals
Alchemy was a form of medicine and was used in the creation of pharmeceuticals.
Alchemy inspired different types of minerals.
11. Transmutation of metals
Was apart of the medieval mindset.
Why did alchemy become popular with both educated and uneducated
in the 16 century?
1. Rise of Renaissance neo‐Platonism // the revival of the writings of Plato
2.dical reform movement of 16 thC. // there was a questioning of the established medical
3.Tecnological & industrial potentials recognized // because alchemy was involved in
different activities, the industrial potential was recognized and eventually
patronized by people of means and of wealth. 4.Subect for esoteric religious speculation during early modern era // Alchemy provided
subject matter for esoteric religious speculation. Essentially, we have to
understand that this was the era of the protestant reformation.
2. Institutional shift
1.From monastery, to court, to medicine // Originally alchemy was made in the
monasteries but it wasn’t a big ordeal at the time.
2.Enters the university in early 17 C.
Hermes Trismegistus // “The three times greatest” 3, is the occult
magic number. His writings combine thoughts of Greek & Egyptian
Marsilio Ficino (1433‐1499)
• Devitacoelituscomparanda[Onmakingyourlife agree with the heavens] (1489) / cosmic
// He was one of the earliest translators from greek into Latin. He was a
court philosopher. He was a wealthy person in a lot of political control
at the time. For Ficino, the key thing about alchemy was to distil
cosmic spirits. He called it the “vital spirita of the cosmos”. Ficino
emphasizes on the more magical side of alchemy and the neo platonic
side of it…..
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486‐1535) // merged magical systems into
1 idea/notion?system? He merged Ficino’s idea of medicism with the Kabbalah. He
wanted to use magic for evangelical purposes, he wanted to convert people to the
Christian faith. Under the Kabbalah he proposed his own theory of the world. Agrippa’s