“For centuries, mysterious scholars toiled away in secluded laboratories in search of an elusive goal – the Philosopher’s Stone. Their quest was to turn ordinary metals into gold and to create an elixir of life, a substance that gives immortality. These secretive scientists were the alchemists. Alchemy has its roots in antiquity, particularly Ancient China, Greece, and Egypt. It found its way to medieval Europe and became a pursuit that, like the Holy Grail, gripped the imagination and inspired the bold and the bright. Until Robert Boyle’s writings on chemistry in the 1660s, alchemy was seen as a legitimate and respectable natural study. Some of the greatest thinkers of medieval and early modern Britain dabbled in alchemy. Sir Isaac Newton experimented, St Thomas Aquinas was a keen practitioner, and Charles II even had an alchemy laboratory built in his private chambers. Not everyone liked them, though. German ruler Frederick of Wurzburg kept special gallows for hanging alchemists. Here we look at six of the most famous alchemists from British history. 1. George Ripley (c. 1415 – 1490) … 2. Thomas Norton (pre-1436 – 1513) … 3. Thomas Charnock (c. 1524 – 1581) … 4. Edward Kelley (1555 – c. 1597) … 5. Arthur Dee (1579 – 1651) … 6. James Price (1752 – 1783)”—”Goldfinger: 6 Famous British Alchemists”
Check out Alchemy, George Ripley, Thomas Norton, Thomas Charnock, Edward Kelley, Arthur Dee, and James Price at the library.
And, remind yourself about the recent John Dee / Arthur Dee news from 2021: Deciphering the Philosophers’ Stone: how we cracked a 400-year-old alchemical cipher—”Science History Institute Postdoctoral Researcher Megan Piorko presented a curious manuscript belonging to English alchemists John Dee (1527–1608) and his son Arthur Dee (1579–1651). In the pre-modern world, alchemy was a means to understand nature through ancient secret knowledge and chemical experiment. Within Dee’s alchemical manuscript was a cipher table, followed by encrypted ciphertext under the heading “Hermeticae Philosophiae medulla” — or Marrow of the Hermetic Philosophy. The table would end up being a valuable tool in decrypting the cipher, but could only be interpreted correctly once the hidden “key” was found. It was during post-conference drinks in a dimly lit bar that Megan decided to investigate the mysterious alchemical cipher — with the help of her colleague, University of Graz Postdoctoral Researcher Sarah Lang.”