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Episode 158: The Alchemical Quest

Alchemical Quest

In Hieronymus Brunschwig’s Liber de arte Distillandi . . . (Strasbourg, 1512) two figures work with one of alchemy’s more grounded practices: distillation. From the Donald and Mildred Othmer Collection, CHF. Photo by Will Brown.

Alchemists were long the butt of scientists’ jokes, thanks to their foolhardy attempts to turn base metals into gold and identify a source of immortality. But in recent decades that scorn has faded. Instead, historians of science point to the incredibly practical—and incredibly important—discoveries these proto-chemists made while pursuing their more dubious goals. On today’s show we spotlight two alchemy experts in discussion about this perspective shift. CHF’s rare book curator James Voelkel, who created the exhibit The Alchemical Quest, sits down with his colleague and old friend Lawrence Principe, author of The Secrets of Alchemy

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:36 Introduction
01:40 Interview: The Alchemical Quest
13:20 Closing Credits

Credits

Special thanks to James Voelkel for researching this show. 

Our theme music is composed by Andrew Chalfen. Music from the Free Music Archive includes “Rompo i lacci from Flavio,” by Rebel Baroque Orchestra; Derek Lee Ragin, countertenor, and “Offrande musicale,” by Bacalao.

Image of Hieronymus Brunschwig’s Liber de arte Distillandi . . . (Strasbourg, 1512) courtesy of the Donald and Mildred Othmer Collection, CHF. Photo by Will Brown. Find more images from our rare book collection at flickr.com/chemheritage.

Posted In: History | Medicine | Society | Technology

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