Synopses & Reviews
A unique approach to the history of science using do-it-yourself experiments along with brief historical profiles to demonstrate how the ancient alchemists stumbled upon the science of chemistry.
Be the alchemist! Explore the legend of alchemy with the science of chemistry. Enjoy over twenty hands-on demonstrations of alchemical reactions.
In this exploration of the ancient art of alchemy, three veteran chemists show that the alchemists' quest involved real science and they recount fascinating stories of the sages who performed these strange experiments.
Why waste more words on this weird deviation in the evolution of chemistry? As the authors show, the writings of medieval alchemists may seem like the ravings of brain-addled fools, but there is more to the story than that.
Recent scholarship has shown that some seemingly nonsensical mysticism is, in fact, decipherable code, and Western European alchemists functioned from a firmer theoretical foundation than previously thought. They had a guiding principle, based on experience: separate and purify materials by fire and reconstitute them into products, including, of course, gold and the universal elixir, the Philosophers' stone.
Their efforts were not in vain: by trial, by error, by design, and by persistence, the alchemists discovered acids, alkalis, alcohols, salts, and exquisite, powerful, and vibrant reactions--which can be reproduced using common products, minerals, metals, and salts.
So gather your vats and stoke your fires! Get ready to make burning waters, peacocks' tails, Philosophers' stone, and, of course, gold!
Alchemy has been in disrepute for a long time now, but in thiswonderfully informative book, three chemists attempt--not to rehabilitate it, of course--but at least to demonstrate that it wasmore than simple irrational and mystical ravings of deluded pseudo-magicians. Drawing on recent research that had deciphered muchof alchemical code, they show that alchemy had a much stronger theoretical foundation than previously believed, and that, despiteits largely irrational foundational beliefs, alchemists managed, through more error than trial, to discover much of the fundamentalknowledge that underlies modern chemistry. The alchemists, largely through sheer persistence rather than a coherent program, discoveredacids and alkali, learned about alcohols and salts, and described many fascinating reactions that we can reproduce today using commonmaterials. Each chapter looks at a particular episode in the history of alchemy, followed by a demonstration of the principles uncoveredby it, together with simple instructions on how to perform that particular experiment at home.Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
"The authors, all chemists, provide armchair alchemists with a series of tales showing the efforts across centuries to produce a method for changing a base metal into gold. They admit that they are not historians, and the apocryphal nature of their sketches demonstrates this. However, they write with wry humor and sympathy for those who endangered their lives and souls in the quest. The book's real hook is the (al)chemical experiments at each chapter's end. Beginning with the distillation of salt water to produce salt and potable water, the authors swiftly progress to more complicated transformations. They emphasize safety glasses and good air circulation two things their predecessors lacked and with standard high school lab equipment, a stove, a hibachi, and some care, amazing results can be reproduced: tin appears to become gold, while seashells dissolve and are reborn as 'pearls.' The authors also give credit to the alchemists for useful discoveries, as when they distilled wine to its essence, 'the water of life,' thus starting the liquor industry. Even if one isn't brave enough to try the kitchen experiments, reading about them conveys the joy of working with retorts, alembics, and heat just to see what happens. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
is the author of The Joy of Chemistry
(with Monty L. Fetterolf); Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth
(with Monty L. Fetterolf and Jack G. Goldsmith); Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks
; and Creations of Fire
(with Harold Goldwhite). She is an instructor of chemistry, physics, and calculus at Mead Hall School in Aiken, South Carolina.
Monty L. Fetterolf is the author of The Joy of Chemistry (with Cathy Cobb); Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth (with Cathy Cobb and Jack G. Goldsmith). He is a professor of chemistry and the department chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.
Harold Goldwhite, emeritus professor of chemistry at California State University, Los Angeles, is the author of eight textbooks on chemistry, and Creations of Fire (with Cathy Cobb).