Alchemy, an ancient science

(how alchemists changed matter into useful applications)

alchemist (s) (noun), alchemists (pl)

Alchemists were often dismissed as charlatans and eccentrics during their lifetimes.

For some people, the word alchemy evokes images of crazed sorcerers in a laboratory trying to turn base metals into gold and silver. Yet this ancient science, which was based on the theory and the practice of transforming matter, had many useful applications.

Rooted in Hellenistic Egypt, alchemy reached a peak of popularity in 17th-century Europe, where it had a profound influence on Baroque glass-makers.

Alchemy was not just about magic, deception, and fraud. As a precursor to modern chemistry, it actually laid the foundation for the material sciences.

Glass is a good medium with which to explore the impact of alchemy, because its raw materials; sand and ash, are transformed into something completely new when mixed together.

This phenomenon specifically relates to the alchemical notion of mutation, the idea that it is possible to change any substance into something else.

Through innovative experiments, alchemists tried to explain natural phenomena, particularly the generation and growth of natural resources, while investigating the technology of materials; such as, glass, metal, ceramics, and their components.

Some alchemists became glass makers themselves. These interactions led to the discovery in the 1670s of crystal in England, where the glass was combined with lead for stability, and central Europe, where either lime or chalk was used as a stabilizing agent.

—Compiled from excerpts of
"Turning lead to crystal and sand to gold ruby glass" by Dana Micucci;
Corning, New York; as seen in the International Herald Tribune;
April 19-20, 2008; page 17.

Also see the "ndex of additional Scientific and Technological Topics.

alchemy (s) (noun), alchemies (pl)
A set of mystical beliefs based on the idea that ordinary matter can be perfected.

In the Middle Ages this became a semi-scientific discipline concerned; for example, with attempts to turn various metals into gold.

Relating to, or characteristic of, a style of composition that flourished in Europe from about 1600 to 1750, marked by expressive dissonance and elaborate ornamentation.
1. Minimum numbers of substances required to specify completely the composition of all phases of a chemical system.
2. Significant parts of larger units.
1. A homogenous solid formed by a repeating, three-dimensional pattern of atoms, ions, or molecules and having fixed distances between constituent parts.
2. A mineral, especially a transparent form of quartz, having a crystalline structure, often characterized by external planar faces.
1. To cause to believe what is not true; to mislead.
2. A stratagem; a trick.
Calling to mind by naming, citing, or suggesting.
fraud (s) (noun), frauds (pl)
1. A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure an unfair or an unlawful gain: The city officials were citing inadequate measures to fight money-laundering, vote-buying, fraud, etc.
2. Someone who assumes a false pose; an impostor: The phone call from a man who claimed to be a police officer turned out to be a fraud who wanted to gain access to the elderly couple's apartment in order to rob them of their jewelry and cash.
Hellenistic Egypt
The zenith of Greek influence in Egypt from 323 B.C. to about 146 B.C. (or arguably as late as 30 B.C.).
1. The force or impetus transmitted by a collision.
2. The effect or impression of one thing on another thing.
1. A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort.
2. Power to sway or to affect someone based on prestige, wealth, ability, or position.
3. To produce an effect on by imperceptible or intangible means; to sway.
That which is introduced by something new.
material sciences
An interdisciplinary field involving the properties of matter and its applications to various areas of science, technology, and engineering.
1. A physical substance that occupies space, possesses mass, and is ultimately convertible to energy.

Matter can be a gas, liquid, or solid.

2. The substance of the universe; made up of atomic particles, atoms, and molecules.

Matter exists in four familiar states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma (gas consisting of electrons and ions).

Something, such as an intermediate course of action, that occupies a position or represents a condition midway between extremes.