The "symbols" for the elements used by Dalton, apparently suggested by those of the alchemists, have been rejected in favour of those which were introduced by Berzelius.
The curious signs on the coloured carboys in chemists' windows, which were commonly to be seen until the middle of the 19th century, were signs used by the alchemists to indicate various chemical substances.
But there is some evidence that, in accordance with the strong and constant tradition among the alchemists, the idea of transmutation did originate in Egypt with the Greeks of Alexandria.
In the Greek alchemists it appears as the symbol at once of the art and of the universe, enclosing within itself the four elements; and there is sometimes a play of words between rï¿½dv and rï¿½c30v.
Signs and symbols of the Greek alchemists appear almost unchanged.
Of the first group the most interesting and possibly the oldest is the Book of Crates; it is remarkable for containing some of the signs used for the metals by the Greek alchemists, and for giving figures of four pieces of apparatus which closely resemble those depicted in Greek MSS., the former being never, and the latter rarely, found in other Arabic MSS.
Manget's Bibliotheca chemica curiosa (1702), are confused productions, written in an allegorical style, but full of phrases and even pages taken literally from the Greek alchemists, and citing by name various authorities of Greek alchemy.
The chemical knowledge of Egyptian metallurgists and jewellers, he holds, was early transmitted to the artisans of Rome, and was preserved throughout the dark ages in the workshops of Italy and France until about the 13th century, when it was mingled with the theories of the Greek alchemists which reached the West by way of the Arabs.
The fundamental theory of the transmutation of metals is to be found in the Greek alchemists, although in details it was modified and elaborated by the Arabs and the Latin alchemists.
This statement represents a doctrine widely held in the 13th century, and also to be found in the Greek alchemists, that everything endowed with a particular apparent quality possesses a hidden opposite quality, which can be rendered apparent by fire.
It must be noted that the processes described by the alchemists of the 13th century are not put forward as being miraculous or supernatural; they rather represent the methods employed by nature, which it is the end of the alchemist's art to reproduce artificially in the laboratory.
But even among the late Arabian alchemists it was doubted whether the resources of the art were adequate to the task; and in the West, Vincent of Beauvais remarks that success had not been achieved in making artificial metals identical with the natural ones.
He has, he adds, tested gold made by alchemists, and found that it will not withstand six or seven exposures to fire.
This quinta essentia had been speculated upon by the Greeks, some regarding it as immaterial or aethereal, andothers as material; and a school of philosophers termed alchemists arose who attempted the isolation of this essence.
Some alchemists honestly laboured to effect the transmutation and to discover the " philosopher's stone," and in many cases believed that they had achieved success, if we may rely upon writings assigned to them.
The retaining of alchemists at various courts shows the high opinion which the doctrines had gained.
In the view of some alchemists, the ultimate principles of matter were Aristotle's four elements; the proximate constituents were a " sulphur " and a " mercury," the father and mother of the metals; gold was supposed to have attained to the perfection of its nature by passing in succession through the forms of lead, brass and silver; gold and silver were held to contain very pure red sulphur and white quicksilver, whereas in the other metals these materials were coarser and of a different colour.
Notwithstanding the false idea which prompted the researches of the alchemists, many advances were made in descriptive chemistry, the metals and their salts receiving much attention, and several of our important acids being discovered.
Towards the end of the 16th century the failure of the alchemists to achieve their cherished purpose, and the general increase in medical knowledge, caused attention to be given to the utilization of chemical preparations as medicines.
At the same time, however, there were many who, opposed to the Paracelsian edefinition of chemistry, still labored at the problem of the alchemists, while others gave much attention to the chemical industries.
The denotation of elements by symbols had been practised by the alchemists, and it is interesting to note that the symbols allotted to the well-known elements are identical with the astrological symbols of the sun and the other members of the solar system.
Among the Arabian and later alchemists we find attempts made to collate compounds by specific properties, and it is to these writers that we are mainly indebted for such terms as "alkali," " sal," &c. The mineral acids, hydrochloric, nitric and sulphuric acids, and also aqua regia (a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids) were discovered, and the vitriols, alum, saltpetre, sal-ammoniac, ammonium carbonate, silver nitrate (lunar caustic) became better known.
In the succeeding iatrochemical period, the methods of the alchemists were improved and new ones devised.
The general tendency of this period appears to have taken the form of improving and developing the methods of the alchemists; 1 The definite distinction between potash and soda was first established by Duhamel de Monceau (1700-1781).
Organic Chemistry While inorganic chemistry was primarily developed through the study of minerals - a connexion still shown by the French appellation chimie minerale - organic chemistry owes its origin to the investigation of substances occurring in the vegetable and animal organisms. The quest of the alchemists for the philosopher's stone, and the almost general adherence of the iatrochemists to the study of the medicinal characters and preparation of metallic compounds, stultified in some measure the investigation of vegetable and animal products.
The alchemists designated it by the sign of Saturn k.
It is said by Andreas Libavius to be a corruption of ï¿½aX a-y p a; in the alchemists the form algamala is also found.
The right of levying seigniorage, however, was sometimes waived by the king to encourage his subjects to bring gold and silver to the mint, and several instances are recorded in which the aid of alchemists was called in to effect the transmutation of baser metals into gold.
39), although it is not known whether the term is identical with the more modern sal-ammoniac. In the form of sal-ammoniac, ammonia was known, however, to the alchemists as early as the 13th century, being mentioned by Albertus Magnus, whilst in the 15th century Basil Valentine showed that ammonia could be obtained by the action of alkalies on sal-ammoniac. At a later period when sal-ammoniac was obtained by distilling the hoofs and horns of oxen, and neutralizing the resulting carbonate with hydrochloric acid, the name spirits of hartshorn was applied to ammonia.
In any case there can be no doubt that it was well known to the alchemists as early as the 13th century.
Liver of sulphur or hepar sulphuris, a medicine known to the alchemists, is a mixture of various polysulphides with the sulphate and thiosulphate, in variable proportions, obtained by gently heating the carbonate with sulphur in covered vessels.
By the alchemists the word was used principally to distinguish various highly volatile, mobile and inflammable liquids, such as the ethers, sulphuric ether and acetic ether having been known respectively as naphtha sulphurici and naphtha aceti.
His court at Iannina was the centre of a sort of barbarous culture, in which astrologers, alchemists and Greek poets played their part, and was often visited by travellers.
It is to be noted that the term "borax" was used by the alchemists in a very vague manner, and is therefore not to be taken as meaning the substance now specifically known by the name.
The alchemists named it Luna or Diana, and denoted it by the crescent moon; the first name has survived in lunar caustic, silver nitrate.
Ferrous sulphate, green vitriol or copperas, FeSO47H2O, was known to, and used by, the alchemists; it is mentioned in the writings of Agricola, and its preparation from iron and sulphuric acid occurs in the Tractatus chymico-philosophicus ascribed to Basil Valentine.
These substances were all known to the later alchemists, who used minerals containing arsenic in order to give a white colour to copper.
Francis Bacon abuses the astrologers of his day no less than the alchemists, but he does so because he has visions of a reformed astrology and a reformed alchemy.
A,u fkE, a cup), an apparatus for distillation, used chiefly by the alchemists, and now superseded by the retort and the worm-still.
In consequence, his lecture-room was thronged with people of all sorts, anxious to hear a man who shunned the barren obscurities of the alchemists, and did not regard the quest of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life as the sole end of his science.
In the writings of the alchemists we find the words misy, sory, chalcanthum applied to alum as well as to iron sulphate; and the name atramentum sutorium, which ought to belong, one would suppose, exclusively to green vitriol, applied indifferently to both.
The alchemists gave great attention to the method, as is shown by the many discoveries made.
Though his writings abound in universal solvents and other devices of the alchemists, he made some real contributions to chemical knowledge.
By the early Greek alchemists the metal was named Hermes, but at about the beginning of the 6th century, it was termed Zeusor Jupiter, and the symbol 2(assigned to it; it was also referred to as diabolus metallorum, on account of the brittle alloys which it formed.