The Strange and Sudden Death of Ancient Alchemy

The quest for the Philosopher’s Stone, alchemy, the search for the Elixir of Life and turning base elements into gold, which occupied the minds of many famous ancient scientists such as Isaac Newton, abruptly came to a halt by the end of the 18th century, due to two incidents, involving a hoax and a suicide.

Ancient to Modern Alchemists

For almost 2000 years the principle area of scientific research within the Hellenistic and Western worlds was the study of alchemy, something now recognized as having paved the way for not only the modern scientific method but also modern scientific disciplines including physics, medicine and chemistry. But then, almost overnight, towards the end of the 18th century, alchemy lost all its credibility, with alchemists from then onwards derided as little more than fraudsters, charlatans and the sadly deluded. Similar practices also existed in the ancient Far East, the Indian subcontinent, and the later Muslim world but are outside the scope of this article. So what happened?

Kimiya-yi sa'ādat (The Alchemy of Happiness), a text on Islamic philosophy and alchemy by the Persian philosopher and mystic Al-Ghazālī (11th century) (Public Domain)

Kimiya-yi sa'ādat (The Alchemy of Happiness), a text on Islamic philosophy and alchemy by the Persian philosopher and mystic Al-Ghazālī (11th century) (Public Domain)


Become a member to read more OR login here