Alchemy on the Cutting Edge (2014) - Lawrence M. Principe

Lawrence M. Principe is the Drew Professor of the Humanities, Department of the History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University. His lecture, "Alchemy on the Cutting Edge, Theoretical Innovations and the Pursuit of Transmutation" was given as the 21st Annual Dibner Library Lecture on December 11, 2014.

It is widely believed that chemistry and alchemy parted company around the end of the 17th century. Chemistry became a modern science, alchemy withered away as a false pursuit. The historical reality is, however, very different. The separation of transmutational pursuits from “acceptable” chemistry was complex, having little to do with scientific developments. Recent archival discoveries show that prominent chemists continued to pursue transmutation until at least the 1760s. Even in the 19th century, new chemical ideas sparked more than one reconciliation between alchemy and chemistry. This lecture explores the resilience of transmutational aspirations and their adaptability to new chemical theories.