Lawrence Principe: "Alchemy and Chemistry Together Again?"
- Date: –15:00
- Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
- Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
- Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
Office for History of Science
Lawrence Principe, Johns Hopkins University: "Alchemy and Chemistry Together Again?"
It is widely believed that chemistry and alchemy parted company around 1700. Chemistry became a modern science, alchemy withered away as a false pursuit. The historical reality is, however, very different. Recent archival discoveries show that prominent chemists continued to pursue transmutation until at least the 1760s. In the 19th century, new chemical theories encouraged remarkable reconciliations between alchemy and chemistry. In the 1850s, the French photographer and chemist Théodore-Cyprien Tiffereau claimed success in transmutation and interested the French Academy of Sciences in his results. Tiffereau turned to the latest scientific discoveries to pursue his experiments for the rest of the century. Transmutation was not refuted by new findings, but was flexible and dynamic enough to benefit from virtually every new theory of chemistry. This lecture explores the resilience of transmutational aspirations and their adaptability to new chemical theories, and follows the fluctuating relationship between transmutational alchemy and "official" chemistry from the 18th to the 20th century.