Chemistry

An Introduction to Alchemy



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Alchemy: The Science of Recycling

Historical Foundations

The science of alchemy is a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy dating back to early civilization. Its history can be traced back to Egyptian mummification, when people began preserving bodies in an effort to prepare for immortality. The foundations of their chemical preservatives led the way to future endeavors in the study of chemistry. Greek philosophers joined their own concept of the composition of the earth, with Egyptian chemical procedures, developing a new science that became known as alchemy.

The Greek philosophy that matter is made of four basic components: fire, earth, air and water, merged with Egyptian chemical preservation methods, and early scientific experiments dating back as early as 300 B.C.

Goals and Preservation

The goal of alchemy is to change ordinary materials into something useful or valuable. For example, alchemists have been known to spend a lot of time trying to change base metals into gold. They have also been known to take simple tools and use them to aid science in research.

Alchemists experiment with substances in different proportions to create something new. One of their objectives is to discover scientific formulas, as seen in Egyptian mummification, which will ultimately be preserved as something different.

Contributions to Medical Advancements

Alchemy has contributed a lot to our world in the form of medical advancement. In the late 1400's, Alchemists challenged the status quo and began to question preferred remedies offered to patients. Their research allowed alternative treatments to be made available to people. This is beneficial because it allows patients to play a more active role in their own health. People began to have options about how they would address medical issues. Choices were made available allowing patients to determine their own course of treatment.

Alchemists have been credited with inventing test tubes, closed crucibles, and retorts back in the 16th century. All of these items have contributed to the advancement of modern medicine and comfort. Paracelsus, a Swiss doctor and alchemist from the early 1500's, joined in this effort. He treated his patients with experimental drugs that he produced in his lab. Then he observed the affect of his home made (synthetic) medicine, so that advancements in the field of modern chemistry continued to flourish.

The Importance of Metal

Alchemists did not overlook the importance of metal and its role in chemical advancements. The science of alchemy made strides in breaking down metallic ore so that it could become a usable substance. Alchemists would separate, produce, test and research the components of metal. Then they would determine its worth in the fight against disease. Their knowledge of the components of metal made significant contributions to the field of metallurgy.

The science of metallurgy is dated back to its early roots in alchemy. Metallurgy has made contributions to society in many ways including metal classification, tools, jewelry, and of course, coins. Metallurgists break down metal so that it can be presented free from impurities.

Benefits to Modern Medicine

The science of alchemy has played a large role in modern medicine and the pharmaceutical world of today. The contributions of alchemy in our present society have laid the foundation for the advancement of chemistry. Alchemists have challenged society to help barren women conceive test tube babies. Contributions from the science of alchemy have also helped in the fight against diseases like polio, HIV, and cancer. Their work has contributed to the development of many vaccines like the flu and chicken pox.

The Science of Recycling

It seems that alchemists were a bit ahead of their time. They began the awesome task of recycling long before society gave a word to it. In the modern world of today, lots of people participate in the science of alchemy without even realizing it. Every time we put the recycling bin on the curb for pick up, we contribute to the process of changing ordinary things into other useful items. As we become more aware of our impact on the world, we are changing ordinary garbage into new items. We reuse plastic and glass containers, aluminum cans, and even dirty water.

The science of alchemy has explored new worlds in its goal of changing ordinary items into useful things that help others. It seems doubtful however, that ancient Egyptians or Greek philosophers could have predicted their role in the world of recycling.

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