Alchemy, The Foundation of Science

Powerful Essays
“As the last drops fell from the glass to my tongue, I wondered - only for an instant - what perhaps I'd never know. What would it taste like, what would it feel like, if that liquid sliding down my throat was not champagne. But the elixir of life” (Neville). The concept of an elixir of life discussed in Katherine Neville’s book, The Eight, is by no means a new concept. In fact, it is one of the main goals of of a group of people, alchemists, who first recorded their workings 2500 years ago (Bateman). Alchemists have greatly shaped much of science and society.

Alchemy has a very long history that also reaches around the world. “Though long associated in the Western world with medieval Europe, alchemy was a philosophy and proto-scientific practice common to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Persia, India, China, Japan, Korea, Greece, and Rome” (Campbell). Alchemy is believed though, to have started in either Egypt or China. (Bateman) “Alchemy was the attempt to transmute, or change, one substance into another” (Campbell). And alchemy, at its core, “was an attempt to understand, deconstruct, and reconstruct matter” (Campbell). This is very similar to the purpose of chemistry, which is: to understand matter and the changes matter undergoes. Alchemists were hoping to use their understanding of matter to fulfill three tasks. Alchemists worked to find “the elixir, a drink that could make a person live forever; the panacea, a medicine that could cure all illnesses; and the Philosopher’s Stone, which could turn any metal into gold” (Bateman). “Much of the work of alchemists is remembered as the work of wizards and witches. They made potions and remedies and thought that matter could be transformed using magic” (Bateman). And eve...

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