Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alchemy for beginners

(click on image to enlarge)
The Ascent of the Mons Philosophorum
Watercolour and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown

Alchemy was a medieval chemical science or speculative philosophy that aimed to achieve perfection. Its specific goals included the transformation of base metals into gold or at least silver, and the discovery of a universal cure for disease.

It evolved as an art - not as a science. Processes developed by alchemists never succeeded in producing gold or even silver, but they did produce building materials such as plaster and mortar, tar and asphalt, fuels for heat and light, artificial gems, medicines, soaps,  cosmetics, beer and wine. Many alchemical processes were discovered by accident, but once mastered, were passed on by an apprenticeship system.

The words ‘alchemy’ and ‘chemistry’ were used interchangeably during most of the 17th century. During the Enlightenment, however, a distinction was drawn because of the rise of modern science with its emphasis on rigorous quantitative experimentation and disdain for ancient wisdom… and the increasing disrepute of alchemists, who claimed through trickery, to achieve perfection – the ultimate goal of alchemy.

Using Photoshop, I have overlaid the sky with some popular alchemy symbols for metals, processes and measures – pounds, ounces and my personal favourite, the scruple.