Alchemy
Alchemy
The art of transmuting baser metals into gold and silver

Catholic Encyclopedia. . 2006.

Alchemy
    Alchemy
     Catholic_Encyclopedia Alchemy
    (From Arabic al, the, and Greek chemia or chemeia, which occurs first in an edict of Diocletian).
    The art of transmuting baser metals into gold and silver. It was the predecessor of the modern science of chemistry, for the first steps in the development of the modern science were based on the work of the old alchemists. Chemistry dates from the latter half of the eighteenth century. About this time the idea was formulated that the formation of an oxide was an additive process; that an oxide was heavier than the original metal, because something was added to it. The discovery of oxygen is often taken as the date of the birth of chemistry. It established the fact that red oxide of mercury is composed of mercury and oxygen. The lack of this seemingly simple conception gave alchemy its definite existence. From old Egyptian times men had studied the chemical properties of bodies without establishing any tangible or tenable theory. The name alchemy has been applied to the work of all early investigations. By their means were determined a vast number of facts, which were only classified and reasonably explained by the new science of chemistry. Many of the alchemists were earnest seekers after truth, and some of the greatest intellects of their time figure among them. Two motives actuated many investigators: the hope of realizing the transmutation of metals, and the search for terrestrial immortality by the discovery of the elixir vitae. The fantastic element apparent in such desires operated to give alchemy a bad reputation, and it is not always accorded the place in the history of science to which it is entitled. As the belief in the possibility of the transmutation of metals was almost universal, much of the work of the alchemists was directed to the production of gold. Often the work was perfectly honest, but many instances of charlatanism are on record. Dishonest men practised on the greed of rulers. If discovered to be guilty of fraud, capital punishment was sometimes administered. Henry IV of England exhorted the learned men of his kingdom to study alchemy, and pay off the debts of the country by discovering the philosopher's stone. In the sixteenth century practically all rulers patronized alchemists.
    Many clerics were alchemists. To Albertus Magnus, a prominent Dominican and Bishop of Ratisbon, is attributed the work "De Alchimia", though this is of doubtful authenticity. Several treatises on alchemy are attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. He investigated theologically the question of whether gold produced by alchemy could be sold as real gold, and decided that it could, if it really possess the properties of gold (Sum. Theol., II-II:77:2). A treatise on the subject is attributed to Pope John XXII, who is also the author of a Bull "Spondent quas non exhibent" (1317) against dishonest alchemists. It cannot be too strongly insisted on that there were many honest alchemists. Chemists have never given up the belief that the transmutation of elements might yet be effected, and recent work in radio-activity goes to prove its possible accomplishment in the case of radium and helium.
    The literature of the subject is extensive. Many of the works of the old writers have been preserved, often unintelligible on account of the terminology. Modern authors have also written treatises on the history of the subject. Berthelot has edited a work "Collection des anciens Alchimistes Grees" with the Greek texts. He has written "Les Origines de l'Alchimie" and other works on the same subject. Schmieder's "Geschichte der Alchimie" (Halle, 1832) is useful. Observations on the subject will be found in treatises on the history of chemistry, such as Liebig's "Familiar Letters", and Thomson's "History of Chemistry", and in the introductory portions of manuals of chemistry.
    T. O'CONOR SLOANE
    Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett Dedicated to the memory of Rev. James G. Anderson, C.S.C., Ph.D.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. — New York: Robert Appleton Company. . 1910.


Catholic encyclopedia.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ALCHEMY — ALCHEMY, ancient art that was the origin of chemistry. The Jewish association with alchemy dates from ancient times. Zosimos, a fifth century Greek historian, states that the Jews acquired the secrets of the sacred craft of the Egyptians and the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Alchemy — Produzenten: AMD RMI Befehlssatz: MIPS Mikroarchitektur: MIPS Alchemy ist eine Mikroprozessor Familie der Firma …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alchemy — Al che*my, n. [OF. alkemie, arquemie, F. alchimie, Ar. al k[=i]m[=i]a, fr. late Gr. ?, for ?, a mingling, infusion, ? juice, liquid, especially as extracted from plants, fr. ? to pour; for chemistry was originally the art of extracting the juices …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Alchemy- — (album d Yngwie Malmsteen) Alchemy est sorti le 17 septembre 1999. C est le onzième disque du guitariste Yngwie Malmsteen. Yngwie Malmsteen Guitare Basse. Mark Boals chant. Mats Olausson claviers. Barry Dunaway Basse. John Macaluso batterie Track …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Alchemy — Alchemy  семейство микропроцессоров с низким энергопотреблением основанных на архитектуре MIPS. Alchemy  свободный векторый графический редактор под лицензией GNU GPL находящийся в стадии разработки. Alchemy  компилятор C/C++ в… …   Википедия

  • alchemy — (n.) mid 14c., from O.Fr. alchimie (14c.), alquemie (13c.), from M.L. alkimia, from Arabic al kimiya, from Gk. khemeioa (found c.300 C.E. in a decree of Diocletian against the old writings of the Egyptians ), all meaning alchemy. Perhaps from an… …   Etymology dictionary

  • alchemy — *magic, thaumaturgy, wizardry, sorcery, witch ery, witchcraft …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • alchemy — [n] medieval science black arts, black magic, hermetics, magic, pseudo science, sorcery, thaumaturgy, witchcraft, wizardry; concepts 367,370,689 …   New thesaurus

  • alchemy — ► NOUN 1) the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned particularly with attempts to convert common metals into gold or to find a universal elixir. 2) a mysterious or paradoxical process. DERIVATIVES alchemical adjective alchemist noun… …   English terms dictionary

  • alchemy — [al′kə mē] n. [ME alchymie < OFr alchimie < ML alchemia < Ar al kīmiyāʾ < Gr chēmeia < ? Chēmia, old name for Egypt < Egyptian kmt, lit., black (land); infl. by folk etym. assoc. with Gr cheein, to pour: see FOUND3] 1. an early… …   English World dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”