Alchemy and the Quest for Long Life in 15th-Century France

Alchemy was an art, a scientific and technological project that foreshadowed modern chemistry. Alchemy, with its cryptic language and fantastic symbolism, evokes many aspects of the culture of the Middle Ages. In alchemical manuscripts, drawings of alembics, funnels and furnaces vividly represent this long lost art. Alchemy’s goal of transmuting base metal into gold fuels[…]

Jan Baptist Van Helmont: Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Van Helmont was an heir of Paracelsus’s thought and movement who went to lengths in later years to distinguish himself. Introduction This article discusses Jan Baptist Van Helmont’s (1579-1644) views on poison in light of his medical alchemy. First, it argues that his approach was fundamentally influenced by the theories of ‘universal poison’ and ‘potent[…]

Inside the Medieval and Early Modern Alchemist’s Workshop

What tools would an alchemist use in the quest to transmute other elements into gold? David Teniers the Younger, a seventeenth-century Flemish painter, had a serious thing for alchemy. Over the course of his career, Teniers painted some 350 different scenes, illustrating just about every aspect of alchemy imaginable. All of Teniers’ alchemical scenes, however,[…]

Ancient Chinese Alchemy

Chinese alchemists developed methods for manipulating minerals and altering the state of substances. Introduction Most of us are familiar with parts of the history of alchemy; the stories of the Philosopher’s Stone and turning base metal into gold have diffused into mainstream films and books. These tales evoke visions of grey bearded men at the royal court[…]