From ArticleWorld

Alchemy is a discipline that combined early science and early philosophy. It included aspects of many disciplines, like art and mysticism, metallurgy, chemistry and medicine. Alchemists searched for a wonder cure to all diseases and the ability to change mundane metals to precious metals. This science has had a long history and provided the beginnings of modern science. The formal study of chemistry, however, led to its decline. Alchemy was practiced mainly in Asia and Europe.

Alchemy as an early science

Alchemist were often ridiculed and considered to be crackpots. This line of thought however was unfair as many alchemists were true pioneers of scientific thought. These alchemists relied on experiments, traditional methods and speculation to answer questions about the physical universe. Alchemist though aware that the chemical processes they carried out followed some general principles they struggled to figure these out as their experiments were often flawed by the use of impure chemicals as well as other factors.

Philosophical and spiritual aspects

Two major focal points of research to alchemists included the conversion of common metals to gold and silver and the search for a wonder cure to all diseases. A lot of effort was invested in the search for this mythical cure also believed to be the secret to prolonging life. These goals were not the source of praise to alchemists but rather the more common contributions such as the refining of ores, manufacture of dyes and inks, metalworking and many others. Alchemists however were never motivated to separate the mystical from the physical and as such never came with proper names for processes. Instead they utilized borrowed terms and often these read like spells. This led to the perception by alchemist that the processes were just the manifestation of spiritual states and transformations.

Science and modern alchemy

Many renowned scientists devoted much of their time to the study of alchemy but with the emergence of chemistry, which provided a methodical approach to chemical reactions, alchemy declined. However, alchemy has rhetorically resurfaced from time to time as new developments in chemistry reveal ways to achieve the elusive original goal of alchemy. This was seen when lead was eventually transmuted to gold however the energy requirements cancelled the possibility of any financial benefits to the process. An elusive goal however has been the search for the universal panacea.