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Origins and History of Alchemy

  • Alchemy emerged independently in China, India, and Greece, but degenerated into superstition. It drifted to Egypt and survived as a scholarly discipline.
  • In the 12th century, it was revived in Europe when scholars translated Arabic works into Latin.
  • By the end of the 13th century, philosophers, scientists, and theologians started discussing is more seriously.



Medieval Alchemy

Alchemy in the Middle Ages was a mixture of science, philosophy, and mysticism. Alchemists approached their craft, believing that purity of mind, body, and spirit was necessary.

Medieval alchemy was centered around the idea that all matter was composed of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. They theorized that the right combination could produce any substance on earth.

  • To discover the relationship of man to the cosmos.
  • To find the ingredient to make an elixir of immortality and transform common substances into gold.
  • Late in the Middle Ages, to use alchemy as a tool in the progress of medicine.
  • Medieval alchemists made hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, potash, and sodium carbonate.
  • They identified the elements arsenic, antimony, and bismuth.
  • They invented and developed laboratories that are still used today in a modified form.
  • The practice of alchemy laid the foundation for further development of chemistry as a scientific discipline.
  • Due to the secrecy of alchemists, the Catholic Church viewed alchemy with suspicion and ultimately condemned it.
  • Alchemy was never taught in Universities but passed on from teacher to apprentice or student.
  • Followers of the occult were attracted to alchemy.
  • Alchemy was used to defraud people.
  • Thomas Aquinas, a theologian, studied alchemy before it was condemned by the Church.
  • Roger Bacon was the first European to describe how to make gunpowder.
  • Paracelsus used his knowledge of chemical processes to benefit the science of medicine.

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Galileo Galilei, a contemporary of Kepler, built a telescope and began fixing its lens on the planets. He made a series of remarkable discoveries: that the moon was not flat and smooth, there were spots on the sun, Jupiter had moons that orbited it, Venus had phases like the moon, which proved that the planet rotated around the sun.

Galileo published his findings but was later put on trial for heresy and put under house arrest for the remainder of his life. He never stopped his research and published several theories until his death in 1642.



Nuns, monks, preachers and the people they educated were to visualize the material they were processing. A branchy tree or a finely feathered angel. The images might loosely correspond to the substance of an idea.

The point was to give the mind something to draw, to indulge its appetite for interesting forms while sorting its ideas into some logical structure.

  • Initially, the chess queen could only move one square.
  • In the 15th century, the queen gained unlimited movement in any direction.
  • The queen's elevation to the strongest piece appeared first in Spain during the time when the powerful Queen Isabella was on the throne.