The Chemistry of Alchemy: From Dragon's Blood to Donkey Dung, How Chemistry Was Forged

By Cathy Cobb, Harold Goldwhite

A new angle to the historical past of technology utilizing  do-it-yourself experiments in addition to short old profiles to illustrate how the traditional alchemists stumbled upon the technology of chemistry.

Be the alchemist! discover the legend of alchemy with the technology of chemistry. take pleasure in over twenty hands-on demonstrations of alchemical reactions. 

In this exploration of the traditional artwork of alchemy, 3 veteran chemists convey that the alchemists' quest concerned actual technology and so they recount interesting tales of the sages who played those unusual experiments.

Why waste extra phrases in this bizarre deviation within the evolution of chemistry? because the authors convey, the writings of medieval alchemists could appear just like the ravings of brain-addled fools, yet there's extra to the tale than that.

Recent scholarship has proven that a few possible nonsensical mysticism is, in truth, decipherable code, and Western eu alchemists functioned from a less assailable theoretical starting place than formerly notion. that they had a tenet, in line with adventure:  separate and purify fabrics through hearth and reconstitute them into items, together with, in fact, gold and the common elixir, the Philosophers' stone.

Their efforts weren't in useless:  by trial, through blunders, through layout, and via endurance, the alchemists came upon acids, alkalis, alcohols, salts, and delightful, strong, and colourful reactions--which might be reproduced utilizing universal items, minerals, metals, and salts.  

So assemble your vats and stoke your fires! prepare to make burning waters, peacocks' tails, Philosophers' stone, and, in fact, gold!

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However, we're chemists—but this ebook wasn't written for chemical specialists, both. It used to be written for non-chemists (or non-alchemists, when you will) whose highschool chemistry is a fond reminiscence. The technical descriptions are uncomplicated and short and depend on basic chemical ideas defined in simple explications of chemistry, corresponding to our prior paintings, the enjoyment of Chemistry, and people indexed in our bibliography. We restricted our fabrics and techniques. the top temperature we in achieving is the “HI” surroundings of a regular kitchen burner, and we did not use physique fluids, even if a recipe known as for them (with one remarkable exception). we will not be exacting in quantities and measures (but, for the main half, neither have been they), and we exclude mercury, lead, and arsenic from our recipes, cowards that we're. in addition, in might be the main debatable flow, we constrained our alchemists to believers in metal transmutation and seekers of the key in historic books. We didn't stay at the parallel evolution of useful chemical artisans, even supposing the conjoined goals of alchemy and chemical craft can't be realistically severed. eventually, we dealt in simple terms peripherally with the philosophy of alchemy and selected in its place to target the perform. in reality, we begun this ebook with much less curiosity in philosophy than in psychology: we needed to grasp what made the alchemists tick. we needed to understand what made them imagine they can make gold and what stored them at their kettles, failure after failure. What made them hazard lifestyles and limb, prostitute their mind, and promote their possessions to shop for another day on the fires? We knew figuring out wouldn't come from phrases or work yet needed to be skilled firsthand, which resulted in the improvement of the demonstrations, reenactments of alchemical procedures—and which additionally led instantly to mammoth difficulties. the 1st challenge was once, after all, security. whether the previous alchemists knew the entire risks, which frequently they did not, those adventurers do not need revered any kind of defense general (they have been, in spite of everything, prepared to hazard the gallows), so occasionally more secure substitutes needed to be found—though now not as usually as should be expected—because we came across (after many, many trials) that usually a few of the extra harmful components, resembling mercury, have been extra gratuitously. And notwithstanding we have been in a position to reveal to ourselves how the required fabrics will be extracted from normal assets (the physique fluids we alluded to), we stumbled on this usually entailed a discouraging quantity time, attempt, and scent, even for pro chemists; so, even supposing we are going to describe a few adventures during this division in short, we as a rule used to be had advertisement assets in our demonstrations. therefore, we misplaced a few authenticity, yet we won huge, immense appreciate for the alchemists. additionally, we stumbled on many recipes, recopied by way of scribes either medieval and smooth, had mistakes or omissions. We came upon numerous varied elements with an analogous identify and several other names for a similar factor.

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