Apart from being the father of modern physics, and with his phenomenal law of universal gravitation, if there’s one thing Sir Isaac Newton shared with Harry Potter, it would be their pursuit of alchemy.
For starters, alchemy, also known as “chymistry” during 17th century Europe, is a medieval science that fascinated Newton for decades, the Washington Post reported. Its main tenet is to convert common metals into precious minerals such as gold by manipulating its composition and by using the “Philosopher’s Stone.”
Although it has already been labeled a pseudoscience today, experts remain fascinated by how it works, considering how some of the greatest thinkers in medieval times had been so interested. This fascination got more intensified when the Chemical Heritage Foundation recently bought Newton’s notes about alchemy from an auction in Philadelphia.
The documents the foundation bought show Newton’s obsession with the study of alchemy. In Newton’s time, when there have been limited understanding on the nomenclature and nature of elements, many believe that by way of manipulation, one can turn simple metal into gold. It was previously thought that gold is made of compound chemicals.
According to a report from the CNN, James Voelkel, curator at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Othmer Library of Chemical History, said the recently acquired documents on Newton’s notes about alchemy will help modern-day scientist better understand this rather mystical “science.” The acquired records of Newton’s study of alchemy comprised more than a million words about alchemy.
The document also contained information about his alchemical observations first public for the first time. It was believed that modern-day chemistry emerged from the relabeled alchemy or chymistry.
“The significance of the manuscript is that it helps us understand Newton’s alchemical reading — especially of his favorite author — and gives us evidence of one more of his laboratory procedures,” Voelkel was quoted as saying by CNN.