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Author: Stanley Redgrove
The theory of the origin of Alchemy put forward in Chapter I has led to considerable discussion; but whilst this theory has met with general acceptance, some of its earlier critics took it as implying far more than is actually the case
Review of Alchemy:Ancient and Modern
This short work, published originally in 1910 and updated in1922, is a rather fascinating look into the history of alchemy and chemistry,both from the standpoint of the history of which it speaks and the 100 year-oldhistory of which it is, itself, a part. While basic chemistry may be similar to the chemistry of the early 1900’s,the knowledge of the basic constituents of matter is not.
The alchemy portion, primarily a listing of the main alchemiststhrough the ages and their contributions to both alchemy and chemistry, is veryinteresting. It is told in astraightforward way in pretty much chronological order. So little is known (or was known) about thelives of these men that in some sections the descriptions are rather sketchy.
The work is heavily dependent upon the works andtranslations of Arthur E. Waite (of Ryder-Waite tarot fame), but many otherauthorities are also quoted. When thebook was first written, these authorities were the latest and greatest, havingbeen published in the last decade of the 18th century and the firstdecade of the 20th century.
Not much can be added to the history of alchemy after the sciencesevolved into chemistry; however, the author (H. Stanley Redgrove) of this workdoes present an argument for the merging of the two studies, seeing theexperiments with the little known elements as possible candidates fortransmutation.
Once he gets more into the details of chemistry – the periodictable, the emanations of the elements, etc. – the manuscript became somewhatharder for me to follow. Being less thana layman in my understanding of chemistry, I found his explanations andconclusion a bit beyond my ken. However,anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry and the workings of simpleresearcher should have no problem following the author’s revelations.
One particularly interesting thing I noted was that Mr.Redgrove in describing Mme. Curie’s experiments with radioactivity had noknowledge of her early demise because of those experiments. At the time the work was composed, there wasno awareness of the dangers of radioactivity nor X-rays. The great heat described as the result ofexperimenting with radium (“… the radium-atom is liable to, and actually does,explode.”) could be seen to presage the discovery of atomic energy and thenuclear bombs.
All in all, it is a very interesting read. Anyone with a science bent would find it adelightful curiosity.
This book is an absolute imperative for those who are students of the 19th Century. Alchemy, among other transitional belief systems, helped define the movement from Medieval thought and beliefs to the Middle Ages to the Second Awakening on into the Industrial Revolution. It is indeed a complementary study of growth and maturity in the scope of investigation and the quest to manipulate the physical world and the mystical balance with theology. This book cut my research in half because of its well documented and referenced. Through just the bibliographic information alone i was able to identify books and sources that were not availed to me through library searches and a broad search criteria. Published at the very beginning of the 20th century, the author has the advantage of perspective and insight into the changes and developments that occurred so rapidly and amidst one of the most complex times in human history. Absolutely well worth every moment spent exploring the offerings and perspective the book offers.
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