Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alchemists, ancient and modern

In certain southern English universities of medieval foundation it is still common for those students and academics whose disciplines require no more than lots of books, brains and a means of writing to sneer at the activities of a certain tribe who are known as “northern chemists”. Such troglodytes, as their nickname suggests, often come from unfashionable parts of the country. Worse, they think nothing of engaging in actual manual labour in their pursuit of knowledge. That sort of chap is not, my dear, you know, really quite one of us…

In the view of Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, such thinking was also around in the 17th and 18th centuries. And it was, as he told this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, one of the main reasons why modern minds equate the word “alchemist” with “charlatan”.

Click here to read this article from The Economist