Alchemy In The Middle Ages Essay Research

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Alchemy In The Middle Ages Essay, Research Paper The Dark Ages was a period of stupidity and ignorance. People destroyed what they feared, and people feared the unknown. People spent their waking days just trying to stay alive– from wandering vagrants, disease, age, and the elements: fire, water, earth, air. These were the basic elements that everything was composed of. The modern belief is that alchemy was the precursor to today’s physical sciences. In reality, alchemy was, and still is a separate branch of science. In many instances, alchemy may have prevented the growth of science, as we know it. During this time period, the alchemist used all their efforts and talents for transmutation, the process of turning one substance into another. Their ultimate goal was to turn

lead, or a similar metal, into gold or silver. During the same period of time, there were true scientists such as: Francis Bacon, Albertus Magnus, and Roger Bacon. These were often in competition with alchemists such as: Nicholas Flamel, Geber, and Sir George Ripley. The main difference between these people was their pursuit. While the “real” scientists were devoted to the advancement of knowledge, the alchemists were only interested in profit. Often times, it was the alchemist who was funded by the king to find a way to turn metals into gold. “Henry IV of England, in need of money, granted royal permission to three alchemists searching for the secret of turning base metal into gold and for the elixir or immortality” (Medieval Man). In Geber’s Discovery of Secrets,

Geber describes tuning such metals as copper and iron into silver. “Take as much as you wish of the stone mixed with its mixture and grind it with some water, mixed with copperas and sal ammoniac until it becomes black. Then put it very near a very slight heat until it smells like semen. When it has that smell take it away and wash it slowly with some clear water, and then roast it gently until you notice a visible vapour.” The text continues to explain a long and complex set of instructions, repeated 50 to 60 times. It is obvious that this is not the greatest of scientific methods. The process is long and extremely imprecise and is thus prone to error. If the instructions were not followed precisely, you would not get the desired results. Fracis Bacon himself describes the

process as “full of Errour and Imposture; And in the Theory, full of unsound Imaginations” (Experiment Solitary). Although alchemy may seem fool hearted, it is rooted in logical assumptions. Everyday, we see the changing of materials into other materials, ice into water, water into air.Every day mud was changed into frogs, and carcasses into worms. The greatest miracle of all was the transmutation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in he Eachrist. The basis of alchemy was a system of philosophy which hoped or claimed to penetrate the mystery of life and to understand and control the formation of inanimate substances philosophy of alchemy taught that the process of nature tend toward perfection it was natural for man to strive to create perfection– among

metals, gold. (What is Alchemy?)But this was not the general consensus of the scientific community. Scientists like Roger Bacon believed that observations are often times false. He says this of observations: it must not be supposed that proficiency in the physical and experimental sciences is the highest standard of perfection we have faculties that are brought into use by observation, experiment, and analysis; and we have also the higher faculty of intelligence and reason the observation, classification, and analysis of natural phenomena do not constitute the highest form of intellectual activity. (Experimental Sciences)In these ways, alchemy is different from science. While science observes nature, and tries to find out how it works, alchemy tries to manipulate nature. Even