Modern Alchemy

Modern Alchemy : Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory

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Description

Alchemists are generally held to be the quirky forefathers of science, blending occultism with metaphysical pursuits. Although many were intelligent and well-intentioned thinkers, the oft-cited goals of alchemy paint these antiquated experiments as wizardry, not scientific investigation. Whether seeking to produce a miraculous panacea or struggling to transmute lead into gold, the alchemists radical goals held little relevance to consequent scientific pursuits. Thus, the temptation is to view the transition from alchemy to modern science as one that discarded fantastic ideas about philosophers stones and magic potions in exchange for modest yet steady results. It has been less noted, however, that the birth of atomic science actually coincided with an efflorescence of occultism and esoteric religion that attached deep significance to questions about the nature of matter and energy. Mark Morrisson challenges the widespread dismissal of alchemy as a largely insignificant historical footnote to science by prying into the revival of alchemy and its influence on the emerging subatomic sciences of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Morrisson demonstrates its surprising influence on the emerging subatomic sciences of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Specifically, Morrisson examines the resurfacing of occult circles during this time period and how their interest in alchemical tropes had a substantial and traceable impact upon the science of the day. Modern Alchemy chronicles several encounters between occult conceptions of alchemy and the new science, describing how academic chemists, inspired by the alchemy revival, attempted to transmute the elements; to make gold. Examining scientists publications, correspondence, talks, and laboratory notebooks as well as the writings of occultists, alchemical tomes, and science-fiction stories, he argues that during the birth of modern nuclear physics, the trajectories of science and occultism--so often considered antithetical--briefly merged.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 160 x 236.2 x 25.4mm | 476.28g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195306961
  • 9780195306965
  • 1,984,304

Review quote

stimulating... if you have ever wondered why practical alchemy is still alive today, or if you are interested in cultural history with a science component, buy this book and read it: you will be captivated! * J. A. R. Van Veen, AMBIX * Morrisson's account of the extraordinary relationship between chemistry, physics, occultism and money in the first three decades of the twentieth century will be enjoyed by chemists and give pause for thought to any readers who believe science to be devoid of transcendental interest. * William H Brock, Chemistry World *show more

About Mark Morrisson

Mark Morrison is Associate Professor of English, Pennsylvania State Universityshow more

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