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Alchemists....Those Who Practice Alchemy

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  • Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio (1451 - 1505)
    Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio (Latin name: Iohannes Mercurius de Corigio ; 1451 - ?) was an Italian itinerant preacher, Hermeticist, and alchemist. Due to his bizarre appearance in Rome on Palm Su...
  • Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447 - 1500)
    Ludovico Lazzarelli (4 February 1447 – 23 June 1500) was an Italian poet, philosopher, courtier, hermeticist and (likely) magician and diviner of the early Renaissance. Born at San Severino Marche, ...
  • Marco Bragadino (1545 - 1591)
    Marco Bragadino or Marco Bragadini (c. 1545 – 26 April 1591) was a Venetian confidence man who claimed to be an alchemist. His name at birth is said to have been Mamugna but he impersonated the son o...
  • Giuseppe Francesco Borri (1627 - 1695)
    Giuseppe Francesco Borri (4 May 1627, in Milan – 20 August 1695, in Rome) was an alchemist, prophet, freethinker, physician and eye doctor.
  • Rudolf von Sebottendorf (1875 - 1945)
    Freiherr von Sebottendorff (or von Sebottendorf) was the alias of Adam Alfred Rudolf Glauer (November 9, 1875 – May 8, 1945?), who also occasionally used another alias, Erwin Torre. He was an important...

Alchemy is an influential tradition whose practitioners have, from antiquity, claimed it to be the precursor to profound powers. As described by Paul-Jacques Malouin in The Encyclopedia of Diderot, it is the chemistry of the subtlest kind which allows one to observe extraordinary chemical operations at a more rapid pace – operations that require a long time for nature to produce. Definitions of the objectives of alchemy are varied but historically have typically included one or more of the following goals: the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone; the ability to transmute base metals into the noble metals (gold or silver); and development of an elixir of life, which would confer youth and longevity.

Though alchemy played a significant role in the development of early modern science, it differs significantly from modern science in its inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, religion, and spirituality. It is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method, some of which are still in use today. However, alchemists predated modern foundations of chemistry, such as scientific skepticism, atomic theory, the modern understanding of a chemical element and a chemical substance, the periodic table and conservation of mass and stoichiometry. Instead, they believed in four elements, and cryptic symbolism and mysticism was an integral part of alchemical work.

Relation to chemistry

Practical applications of alchemy produced a wide range of contributions to medicine and the physical sciences. The alchemist Robert Boyle is credited as being the father of chemistry. Paracelsian iatrochemistry emphasized the medicinal application of alchemy (continued in plant alchemy, or spagyric). Studies of alchemy also influenced Isaac Newton's theory of gravity. Academic historical research supports that the alchemists were searching for a material substance using physical methods.

Alchemists made contributions to the "chemical" industries of the day—ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints, cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics, glass manufacture, preparation of extracts, liquors, and so on. Alchemists contributed distillation to Western Europe. The attempts of alchemists to arrange information on substances, so as to clarify and anticipate the products of their chemical reactions, resulted in early conceptions of chemical elements and the first rudimentary periodic tables.

During the 17th century, practical alchemy started to disappear in favor of its younger offshoot chemistry, as it was renamed by Robert Boyle, the "father of modern chemistry". In his book, The Skeptical Chymist, Boyle attacked Paracelsus and the natural philosophy of Aristotle, which was taught at universities. However, Boyle's biographers, in their emphasis that he laid the foundations of modern chemistry, neglect how steadily he clung to the scholastic sciences and to alchemy, in theory, practice and doctrine. The decline of alchemy continued in the 18th century with the birth of modern chemistry, which provided a more precise and reliable framework within a new view of the universe based on rational materialism.

Relation to Hermeticism

In the eyes of a variety of esoteric and Hermetic practitioners, the heart of alchemy is spiritual. Transmutation of lead into gold is presented as an analogy for personal transmutation, purification, and perfection.

Early alchemists, such as Zosimos of Panopolis (c. AD 300), highlight the spiritual nature of the alchemical quest, symbolic of a religious regeneration of the human soul. This approach continued in the Middle Ages, as metaphysical aspects, substances, physical states, and material processes were used as metaphors for spiritual entities, spiritual states, and, ultimately, transformation. In this sense, the literal meanings of 'Alchemical Formulas' were a blind, hiding their true spiritual philosophy. Practitioners and patrons such as Melchior Cibinensis and Pope Innocent VIII existed within the ranks of the church, while Martin Luther applauded alchemy for its consistency with Christian teachings. Both the transmutation of common metals into gold and the universal panacea symbolized evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible, and ephemeral state toward a perfect, healthy, incorruptible, and everlasting state, so the philosopher's stone then represented a mystic key that would make this evolution possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin goal symbolized his evolution from ignorance to enlightenment, and the stone represented a hidden spiritual truth or power that would lead to that goal. In texts that are written according to this view, the cryptic alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagery of late alchemical works typically contain multiple layers of meanings, allegories, and references to other equally cryptic works; and must be laboriously decoded to discover their true meaning.

During the renaissance, alchemy broke into more distinct schools placing spiritual alchemists in high contrast with those working with literal metals and chemicals. While most spiritual alchemists also incorporate elements of exotericism, examples of a purely spiritual alchemy can be traced back as far as the 16th century, when Jacob Boehme used alchemical terminology in strictly mystical writings. Another example can be found in the work of Heinrich Khunrath (1560–1605) who viewed the process of transmutation as occurring within the alchemist's spirit.

Famous Alchemists

  • Agathodaimon
  • Henry Cornelius Agrippa
  • Al-Ghazali
  • Al-Razi (Rhazes)
  • Albertus Magnus
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Arnold of Villanova
  • Roger Bacon
  • Johann Joachim Becher
  • Peter Bonus
  • Johann Friedrich Böttger
  • Tycho Brahe
  • Hennig Brand
  • Christina of Sweden
  • Giovanni (Mercurio) da Corregio
  • Count of St. Germain
  • Marie Curie
  • Samuel Danforth
  • John Dee
  • Edmund Dickinson
  • Johann Conrad Dippel
  • Cornelis Drebbel
  • Elizabeth I
  • Faust
  • Benedictus Figulus
  • Nicolas Flamel
  • Robert Fludd
  • Fulcanelli and Caseliet
  • Francesco Giorgi
  • Ge Hong
  • Johann Rudolf Glauber
  • Hermes Trismegistus
  • Richard and Isabella Ingalese
  • Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber)
  • Maslama al-Majriti
  • Miriam the Jewess
  • Khalid ibn Yazid (Calid)
  • Pseudo-Geber
  • Edward Kelley
  • Johannes Kepler
  • Heinrich Khunrath
  • Ramon Llull
  • Pico della Mirandola
  • Isaac Newton
  • Ostanes
  • Giovanni Agostino Panteo
  • Paracelsus
  • Paul of Taranto
  • Pseudo-Democritus
  • Gilles de Rais
  • Rudolf II of Hapsburg
  • Michael Sendivogius
  • Eirenaeus Philalethes (George Starkey)
  • Alexander von Suchten
  • Bishop Synesius of Cyrene
  • Bernard Trevisan
  • Baru Urbigerus
  • Basil Valentine
  • Zosimos of Panopolis


this project is in HistoryLink