A Short Study of Alchemy

Alchemy existed as an ancient science in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and is believed to have originated in Egypt around 2,300 years ago. The overarching goal of alchemy was to achieve purity and perfection in various substances. The widest-known aspect of alchemy was chrysopoeia, which was the transmutation of base metals into noble metals, specifically lead into gold. Other well-known goals of alchemy were attempting to create an elixir of immortality, and to cure all diseases.

Pseudoscience with History

PWhile the alchemists of medieval europe are the most prominent in popular culture, most of their work was concerned with translating and cataloguing the knowledge of other cultures. Once alchemy was able to be understood by people who couldn’t speak latin, it began to fall from its mystical grace. Authors of the time created an image for alchemists as the snake-oil salesmen of their day.

Common symbols associated with alchemy.

While Pope John XXII classified transmutation as a forbidden process, in England you could buy an alchemy license. A famous alchemist from the 14th century was Nicolas Flamel, who was notable for his pursuit of the philosophers’ stone. He was not a scholar of religious works as the early European alchemists were, and while he went into great detail describing his experiments, he never gave formulas to achieve transmutation. After Flamel, European alchemists of the following centuries also focused on the search for the philosophers’ stone.