I believe we have all heard of “alchemy.” This ancient and mysterious study originated from ancient Europe. Its main goal was to “make stone into gold”, that is, to make gold through various methods, and later developed a branch to find the secret of longevity, similar to the ancient alchemy in China.
Before the 19th century, alchemy was not officially denied by scientific evidence, and many people had tried alchemy. The master of classical physics, Newton, the father of modern chemistry, Lavoisier (author of “Chemical Summary”), is actually an alchemist.
Although today we know that chemical reactions follow the principle of conservation of elements, they do not create elements that do not exist in the reactive substances. However, some alchemists are still “unintentional”, leaving their mark in the fields of lighting, explosives, experimental chemistry, etc., thus blurring the boundaries between deception and science, and even laying the foundation for modern science.
Let us now learn about some of the alchemists of history and their contributions!
Maria and a variety of experimental instruments
Jewish Mary was a female alchemist in ancient Greece. She lived between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century BC. She was considered by many to be the first real alchemist in the Western world. Due to the age, the works of Maria’s life were few or impossible to preserve, so people can only learn about her through some later literature, including the oldest surviving alchemy written by Solimos in the 4th century AD. Books and the history of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th century.
According to the data, Maria invented several chemical instruments, the first is a three-arm distiller for distillation of purified materials. Maria uses a copper tube of the same thickness as the pan to seal the joint and port with a batter. The second type is a fractionation vessel, which is a cylinder that can be closed at both ends and heated by the outside. There is a plate above the cylinder, and a metal foil or powder to be heated is placed thereon, and the substance to be evaporated or sublimated is placed in a circle. The bottom of the barrel. In addition to the two devices described above, Maria also invented the water bath device. Despite some changes, experimental devices with similar principles are still used in today’s chemical experiments.
Another person who contributed to the early development of chemistry was the Boss of the 8th century AD, Berg (Berg is a Latin translation, the Arabic name was Jabir). However, Berg’s identity has always been a mystery, because in the 8th century AD, more than 3,000 books on cosmology, medicine, philosophy, alchemy, etc. were signed by Jabir, so that modern scholars suspect that these works are not from one person. The hand, but a pen name widely used at that time, these articles are now collectively called the Berg library. Later, in the 13th century Europe, an anonymous writer used Berg as his pen name and also published a series of articles on alchemy and metallurgy.
Berg’s most important contribution is the first classification of substances and lists a list of chemicals, including mercury, sulfur, antimony, arsenic and sulfuric acid. In addition, the library has more than 20 kinds of experimental equipment for alchemy, and describes many common chemical processes, such as the synthesis of crystals and the synthesis of various acids such as acetic acid, tartaric acid, and sulfuric acid. The concept of chemical equivalents can also be traced back to Berg, when it was known how much acid needed to neutralize a certain amount of alkaline matter (caustic soda).
Whether or not Berg lived in the 8th century, his name was the most famous of the alchemists. He paved the way for most of the later alchemists, and Berg’s library also greatly influenced the alchemy process in Europe.
Beauty King Isabella Coates
The 16th century was the beginning of the heyday of European alchemy, when wealthy aristocrats used alchemy as a hobby. Unlike the obscure professional alchemy papers, books with popular sciences begin to appear. These books use simple and direct ways to let more people know some alchemy tips, such as how to preserve fruits, make simple drugs, etc. .
Among the books, the most popular one is Isabella Koster’s Secret, which was published in 1561 and was a great success. At the time of writing, Koster has been studying alchemy for more than 30 years, but she believes that Berg’s work does not have any practical use, and she focuses her research on cosmetic formulations. For example, white wine, honey, eggs, and goat’s milk are mixed together, and the distilled mixture can detoxify the skin. In addition, there are ways to make distilled water and perfume in the family.
Using urine to synthesize phosphorus
Many scientific achievements have condensed the blood and tears of the researchers, but the initial discovery and preparation of phosphorus came from the urine.
Hennig Brand is a German alchemist. He tried to find the stone of the Sage (the legendary stone in alchemy), but unexpectedly got the chemical element phosphorus. The preparation of phosphorus requires alum, potassium nitrate and a large amount of urine. After a series of processes such as boiling, cooling, and distillation, a yellow-white powder (white phosphorus) is formed. However, when Brand just discovered white phosphorus, he did not know that he discovered a new element, and still thought that he had found the “Sage of the Sage.” In the next six years, he continued to experiment and found that the substance can be stored in water, and it will be hot when exposed to the air, and sometimes it will spontaneously ignite. He used the light from phosphorus to read books and made luminous ink. For economic reasons, he eventually sold his formula to some of the chemists of the time.
Brand was the first discoverer of chemical elements. The discovery of phosphorus marks the end of alchemy and marks the beginning of chemistry as a science.
Alchemy home inventing gunpowder
Although some of the Western alchemists were introduced in the previous section, Ge Hong, the alchemy of the Eastern Jin Dynasty in the 3rd century AD, also made many contributions to the development of chemistry. British scholar Joseph Needham once said: “One of the most important roots of the entire chemistry is that it has been transmitted from China.”
Ge Hong is a Taoist scholar who has been pursuing the immortality of his body throughout his life and has tried to reconcile Taoism with the wisdom of Confucianism. In the process of searching for elixir, the alchemy will try to heat various minerals. At that time, the drugs produced by Ge Hong refining were Mitutox (lead oxide) and Sanxiandan (mercury oxide), which were all raw materials for topical drugs. Ge Hong discovered the reversibility of the chemical reaction in the process of refining mercury: heating the dansha (mercuric sulphide) can refine the mercury, and the combination of mercury and sulphur can turn into dansha. He also pointed out that lead can be obtained by using lead trioxide, and lead can be refined into lead trioxide. In Ge Hong’s writings, it is also described that the yellow (arsenic trisulfide) and the realgar (arsenic pentoxide) are sublimated after heating and directly become crystalline.
However, compared with the treatment of remedies and medical treatments, Ge Hong’s other most important invention will shorten human life. It is gunpowder. Although people still have doubts about the inventors of gunpowder, Ge Jin in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Tao Hongjing in the Southern Dynasties, and Sun Siyi in the Tang Dynasty are all suspected inventors, but from the age point of view, Ge Hong’s book Bao Puzi is the earliest record. The gunpowder ingredients (sulphur, charcoal, potassium nitrate).