The world of alchemy is shrouded in mystery. Alchemists tirelessly sought the recipe for the Philosophers’ Stone — a substance that could turn any base metal into pure gold. The Philosophers’ Stone would give its user untold wealth and power, so alchemists were known to operate under total secrecy. They worked in codes and symbols — to reserve their great knowledge for only those who were deemed deserving. Instead of the chemical formulas used today, alchemists created elaborate, fantastic illustrations of dragons, warriors, and monsters to represent the chemical experiments they carried out.
Centuries passed, and many historical alchemical texts and images remain undeciphered. Luckily for the history of science, we have brilliant minds like Larry Principe of Johns Hopkins University.
Here’s a look at Larry’s work: digging deep into ancient manuscripts and texts, trying to find clues and cues as to what it was that alchemists really were up to. In addition to an enormous book collection in his office, Larry has a lab where he performs ancient alchemical experiments, helping to set the record straight on the history and development of alchemy. Is he a historian of alchemy or a get-rich-quick schemer in search of the legendary Philosophers’ stone? You decide.