The Secrets of Alchemy

| December 2, 2012 | 0 Comments


The first question you might be asking about this book  is what does it have to do with science? And apparently the best answer to this question is given in the description of the book: “Though the history of alchemy is intricately linked to the history of chemistry, alchemy has nonetheless often been dismissed as the realm of myth and magic, or fraud and pseudoscience. And while its themes and ideas persist in some expected and unexpected places, from the Philosophers’ (or Sorcerer’s) Stone of Harry Potter to the self-help mantra of transformation, there has not been a serious, accessible, and up-to-date look at the complete history and influence of alchemy until now.” So let’s take a closer look at this book in the light of how alchemy influenced chemistry and other sciences.

Author: Lawrence M. Principe

Hardcover: 296 pages

Publisher: University Of Chicago Press 
(Nov 1, 2012)

ISBN-10: 0226682951

ISBN-13: 978-0226682952

Kindle edition: (n/a)

Reviews: customer reviews

Rating: ★★★★ Ranking: 26,697 US Version UK Version

About the Author

Lawrence M. Principe is the Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of History of Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry. Among the long list of Principe’s books you can find such books as “Transmutations: Alchemy in Art“, “Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction” and “Alchemy Tried in Fire“.

Short Overview

Alchemy is a really interesting subject because it is really hard to say what exactly it is. Is it a branch of science or, maybe, a branch of occultism? Interestingly, perhaps the most correct answer would be — it’s both. A great example of this dual nature would be Newton’s great interest in alchemy and theology, which had profound influence on his scientific studies. Such influences and the history of alchemy in general is considered in”The Secrets of Alchemy”.

More concretely, in “The Secrets of Alchemy” Lawrence M. Principe brings alchemy out of the shadows and restores it to its important place in human history, including its influences on science and culture. By surveying what alchemy was and how it began, developed, and overlapped with a range of ideas and pursuits, Principe illuminates the practice. In addition to the history of the subject, Principe introduces the most important personalities of alchemy such as as Zosimos and Basil Valentine.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book, in particular for those with an interest in science, will be the considerations of the rational and empirical reasons behind alchemy. Lawrence Principe, being one of the top experts in the field, describes how alchemy, step-by-step developed from something highly related to magic, to a very scientific field guided by an occult philosophy. In addition, it is discussed how alchemy influenced the evolution of science, especially chemistry.

Overall, it’s a highly informative book by an experienced expert in history of alchemy, so I would recommend it for everyone with an interest in alchemy.

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Category: General Science Books

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