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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Alchemist

Alchemist Quotes (14 quotes)


Concerning the alchemist, Mamugnano, no one harbors doubts any longer about his daily experiments in changing quicksilver into gold. It was realized that his craft did not go beyond one pound of quicksilver… . Thus the belief is now held that his allegations to produce a number of millions have been a great fraud.
Anonymous
'Further Successes by Bragadini. From Vienna on the 26th day of January 1590'. As quoted in George Tennyson Matthews (ed.) News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959), 179. A handwritten collection of news reports (1568-1604) by the powerful banking and merchant house of Fugger in Ausburg.
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Even mistaken hypotheses and theories are of use in leading to discoveries. This remark is true in all the sciences. The alchemists founded chemistry by pursuing chimerical problems and theories which are false. In physical science, which is more advanced than biology, we might still cite men of science who make great discoveries by relying on false theories. It seems, indeed, a necessary weakness of our mind to be able to reach truth only across a multitude of errors and obstacles.
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865, translation 1927, 1957), 170.
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Every creature has its own food, and an appropriate alchemist with the task of dividing it ... The alchemist takes the food and changes it into a tincture which he sends through the body to become blood and flesh. This alchemist dwells in the stomach where he cooks and works. The man eats a piece of meat, in which is both bad and good. When the meat reaches the stomach, there is the alchemist who divides it. What does not belong to health he casts away to a special place, and sends the good wherever it is needed. That is the Creator's decree... That is the virtue and power of the alchemist in man.
Volumen Medicinae Paramirum (c. 1520), in Paracelsus: Essential Readings, edited by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1990), 50-1.
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For many centuries chemists labored to change lead into precious gold, and eventually found that precious uranium turned to lead without any human effort at all.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 43.
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I suppose that the first chemists seemed to be very hard-hearted and unpoetical persons when they scouted the glorious dream of the alchemists that there must be some process for turning base metals into gold. I suppose that the men who first said, in plain, cold assertion, there is no fountain of eternal youth, seemed to be the most cruel and cold-hearted adversaries of human happiness. I know that the economists who say that if we could transmute lead into gold, it would certainly do us no good and might do great harm, are still regarded as unworthy of belief. Do not the money articles of the newspapers yet ring with the doctrine that we are getting rich when we give cotton and wheat for gold rather than when we give cotton and wheat for iron?
'The Forgotten Man' (1883). In The Forgotten Man and Other Essays (1918), 468.
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If we peep into Dom Claude’s cell, we are introduced to a typical alchemist’s laboratory—a gloomy, dimly-lighted place, full of strange vessels, and furnaces, and melting-pots, spheres, and portions of skeletons hanging from the ceiling; the floor littered with stone bottles, pans, charcoal, aludels, and alembics, great parchment books covered with hieroglyphics; the bellows with its motto Spira, Spera; the hour-glass, the astrolabe, and over all cobwebs, and dust, and ashes. The walls covered with various aphorisms of the brotherhood; legends and memorials in many tongues; passages from the Smaragdine Table of Hermes Trismegistus; and looming out from all in great capitals, ’ANAΓKH.
In The Birth of Chemistry (1874), 100.
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M. Waldman … concluded with a panegyric upon modern chemistry…:— “The ancient teachers of this science” said he, “Promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.”
In Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (1823), Vol. 1, 73-74. Webmaster note: In the novel, when the fictional characters meet, M. Waldman, professor of chemistry, sparks Victor Frankenstein’s interest in science. Shelley was age 20 when the first edition of the novel was published anonymously (1818).
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Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know; nor any people so confident as those who entertain us with fabulous stories, such as your alchemists, judicial astrologers, fortune-tellers, and physicians.
In Charles Cotton (trans.), Essays of Michael Seigneur de Montaigne: In Three Books (1693), Vol. 1, 339.
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The alchemists call in many varieties out of astrology, auricular traditions, and feigned testimonies.
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The alchemists in their search for gold discovered other things [of greater value].
With the phrase “of greater value” in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 415. The more specific description '—gunpowder, china, medicines, the laws of nature' is given for 'of greater value' in Counsels and Maxims: Being the Second Part of Arthur Schopenhauer's Aphorismen Zur Lebensweisheit translated by Thomas Bailey Saunders (2nd Ed., 1890), 16.
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The alchemists of past centuries tried hard to make the elixir of life: ... Those efforts were in vain; it is not in our power to obtain the experiences and the views of the future by prolonging our lives forward in this direction. However, it is well possible in a certain sense to prolong our lives backwards by acquiring the experiences of those who existed before us and by learning to know their views as well as if we were their contemporaries. The means for doing this is also an elixir of life.
Foreword to Die Entwicklung der Chemie in der neueren Zeit (1873), trans. W. H. Brock.
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The study of nature with a view to works is engaged in by the mechanic, the mathematician, the physician, the alchemist, and the magician; but by all (as things now are) with slight endeavour and scanty success.
From Novum Oranum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 5. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 47-48.
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[Alchemists] enrich the ears of men with vain words, but empty their Pockets of their Money. Whence it appears to be no Art, but a Composition of Trifles, and inventions of mad brains.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 313.
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[Alchemists] finde out men so covetous of so much happiness, whom they easily perswade that they shall finde greater Riches in Hydargyrie [mercury], than Nature affords in Gold. Such, whom although they have twice or thrice already been deluded, yet they have still a new Device wherewith to deceive um again; there being no greater Madness…. So that the smells of Coles, Sulphur, Dung, Poyson, and Piss, are to them a greater pleasure than the taste of Honey; till their Farms, Goods, and Patrimonies being wasted, and converted into Ashes and Smoak, when they expect the rewards of their Labours, births of Gold, Youth, and Immortality, after all their Time and Expences; at length, old, ragged, famisht, with the continual use of Quicksilver [mercury] paralytick, onely rich in misery, … a laughing-stock to the people: … compell’d to live in the lowest degree of poverty, and … at length compell’d thereto by Penury, they fall to Ill Courses, as Counterfeiting of Money.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 313.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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