Alchemy (Encyclopedia of Science)
Alchemy was an early system of thinking about nature that contributed to the development of the modern science of chemistry. It was popular in ancient China, Persia, and western Europe throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages (400450). A combination of philosophy, metallurgical arts (the science of metals), and magic, alchemy was based on a distinctive world-viewhat an essential correspondence exists between the microcosm and the macrocosm (the smallest and largest parts of the universe). Its objectives were: (1) to find ways of accelerating the rates at which metals were thought to "grow" within Earth in their development toward perfection (gold) and (2) to accomplish a similar perfection in humans by achieving eternal life.
Scholars do not know when or where alchemy originated. However, historians agree that alchemistic ideas and practices flourished in the ancient world within several cultural traditions. Even the term alchemy has remained mysterious; scholars have identified al as an Arabic article and proposed various possible meanings for the word chem, but a clear explanation of the term is still lacking.
Alchemy in China
The earliest alchemical practices are believed to have arisen in China in the fourth century B.C. The main emphasis in Chinese alchemy, it seems, was not on...
(The entire section is 839 words.)
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