Alchemy might not interest modern scientists who dismiss it as a mystical pseudoscience, full of far-fetched processes that lack credibility. But, legendary scientist Isaac Newton was particularly fascinated by it and spent his life writing millions of books about it, hoping to use the ancient knowledge to better explain the nature of Earth.
For those who are ardent fans of alchemic texts, we may have found a first-hand recipe of the Philosopher’s stone handwritten by Newton himself! According to National Geographic, scientists have rediscovered a manuscript by the 17th century physicist which is now under the possession of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, a non-profit based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The group is working on posting scanned images and transcriptions to an online forum so that more people could read about Newton’s take on alchemy.
The recipe has detailed descriptions of how to make ‘sophick mercury,’ a substance that forms the main ingredient in the Philosopher’s stone. The stone is famed for its near-magical qualities of turning base metals like lead into precious ones like gold or silver.
Newton, the father of modern physics who also happened to discover the electromagnetic spectrum of light, was apparently influenced by alchemy. While there is no evidence that he actually made sophick mercury, experts believe that the manuscripts can be tapped into to understand how the scientist may have been inspired to recognize that the white light is a mixture of various colours.
But Newton happens to borrow his inspiration from another alchemist named George Starkey whose recipe involved repeatedly distilling mercury and then heating it with gold. This process eventually produces an alloy with delicate, branching spurts. The exact relevance and significance still lies uncovered, but it was Newton who first jotted down the alchemic procedure to sublime lead ore. According to science historian and a Indiana University staffer William Newman, contemporary scientists took several laboratory efforts to make the Philosopher’s stone, reports National Geographic.
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