Tagged: alchemy Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • feedwordpress 09:01:36 on 2018/01/13 Permalink
    Tags: Act Against Multiplication, alchemy, , , Elisabeth of Bohemia, Henry IV, , , ,   

    “The ghost in the machine”*… 


    Pity (detail), by William Blake, c. 1795

    How is it that mind and body manage to interact and affect each other if they are such different things? This question was pressed on Descartes in the spring of 1643 by a young woman of twenty-four, Elisabeth von der Pfalz, also known as Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia. When others raised such difficulties, Descartes tended to brush them aside. But he listened to the princess…

    Anthony Gottlieb tells the remarkable story of the correspondence between René Descartes and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia—a debate about mind, soul, and immortality: “The Ghost and the Princess.”

    * Gilbert Ryle (The Concept of Mind, in part a critique of Descartes’ mind-body dualism)


    As we try to get it together, we might that it was on this date in 1404 that King Henry IV signed into law the Act Against Multiplication– which forbade alchemists to use their knowledge to create precious metals… and effectively, thus, outlawed chemistry in England.  Since the time of Roger Bacon, alchemy had fascinated many in England.  The Act of Multipliers was passed by the Parliament, declaring the use of transmutation to “multiply” gold and silver to be felony, as a result of concern that an alchemist might succeed in his project– and thus bring ruin upon the state by debasing the national currency and/or furnishing boundless wealth to a designing tyrant, who would use it to enslave the country.  The Act was in force until 1689, when Robert Boyle and other members of the vanguard of the scientific revolution lobbied for its repeal.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:21 on 2014/09/18 Permalink
    Tags: alchemist, alchemy, , , , , Principe, ,   

    “Alchemy is the art that separates what is useful from what is not by transforming it into its ultimate matter and essence”8… 


    And yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it may be compared to the husbandman whereof Aesop makes the fable, that when he died he told his sons that he had left unto them gold buried under the ground in his vineyard: and they digged over the ground, gold they found none, but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature as for the use of man’s life.
    ― Francis Bacon, The Advancement Of Learning

    The Alchemist in His Studio, 17th century, Thomas Wijck, oil on panel. Via the Chemical Heritage Foundation, to which all rights are reserved

    Dr. Larry Principe, professor of the history of science at Johns Hopkins, on his favorite painting in the collection of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, The Alchemist in his Studio, by Thomas Wijck (1616–1677).

    email readers click here for video

    Special bonus:  hear a discussion of this painting (and others) from a very different perspective in “Alchemy’s Rainbow: Pigment Science and the Art of Conservation.”

    * Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus


    As we trouble ourselves with transmutation, we might send swinging birthday greetings to Jean Bernard Léon Foucault; he was born on this date in 1819.  One of the most versatile experimentalists of the nineteenth century, Foucault was a physicist made early measurements of the speed of light, discovered eddy currents, and is credited with naming the gyroscope (though he did not invent it).  For all that, Foucault is surely best remembered for the “Foucault Pendulum,” with which he proved that the earth rotates on its axis.




compose new post
next post/next comment
previous post/previous comment
show/hide comments
go to top
go to login
show/hide help