# Newton's Alchemy?

Apparently Sir Issac Newton turned to studing alchemy during the last years of his life. Does anyone have any information about any of his alchemical discoveries? Is there a big pile of gold he transformed out of the lead piping in his house?

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No since Alchemy breaking the laws of science

arildno
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Newton was interested in alchemy and mysticism THROUGHOUT his entire life, not just in his later years.

arildno said:
Newton was interested in alchemy and mysticism THROUGHOUT his entire life, not just in his later years.
Thanks arildno. Very informative of you:uhh: .

Wikipedia said:
Certain (largely unpublished) works of Isaac Newton included much that would now be classified as occult studies. He worked extensively outside the strict bounds of science and mathematics, particularly on chronology, alchemy, and Biblical interpretation (especially of the Apocalypse). Much of his writing on alchemy may have been lost in a fire in his laboratory, so the true extent of his work in this area may have been larger than is currently known. He also suffered a 'nervous breakdown' during his period of alchemical work, which is thought by some due to the psychological transformation that alchemy was originally designed to induce, though there is also speculation it may have been some form of chemical poisoning. (possibly from mercury, lead, etc.)

Newton was an astronomer as well, and as astrology and astronomy were one and the same for thousands of years leading up to and during Newton's time in history (think combination word: astrolomy), it is not at all illogical to suggest that he studied or at least dabbled in astrology. Astrology and alchemy had also been intertwined for thousands of years (see those main articles); conversely, Newton's deep studies into mathematics were obviously related to his breakthrough theories in gravity and astronomy, for which he is best known.
Are Newton's unpublished works published today? Or have they not been decifered as of yet?

I don t think it was only limited to newton  s later years. When newton was young ( 12?) , he did stay with the clark family. clark senior works in a profession that was the modern equivalence of a chemist, doctor and surgent in one. It can be argue that newton s first exposer to Science was from the clark family.

I think Newton considered himself more of an alchemist than scientist or mathematician. A few years ago some scientists got ahold of some of Newton's hair and it had (don't quote me on this) 30 times more mercury than average.

Janus
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tribdog said:
I think Newton considered himself more of an alchemist than scientist or mathematician. A few years ago some scientists got ahold of some of Newton's hair and it had (don't quote me on this) 30 times more mercury than average.
Maybe he tried his hand at haberdashery.

Janus said:
Maybe he tried his hand at haberdashery.
actually it wouldn't suprise me

kant said:
I don t think it was only limited to newton  s later years. When newton was young ( 12?) , he did stay with the clark family. clark senior works in a profession that was the modern equivalence of a chemist, doctor and surgent in one. It can be argue that newton s first exposer to Science was from the clark family.
Please disregard the fact that I misrepresented which period of Newton's life it was that he studied the occult and alchemy.

I am inquiring with regard to what it was that Newton found out with his studies of Alchemy... not when he performed the studies.

If there is a thread on PF that deals with the discoveries Newton found in his Alchemical research, could someone please direct us to it?

If anyone has a website with his "unpublished' alchemical studies on it... please feel free to direct our attention to it. Thank you.

Personally I think alchemy automatically promotes a secretive attitude toward its whole "science'. I don't think there'll be much information on the formuli and experiments conducted under the name of Alchemy. The secretivenessicity may stem from the times when most scientific inquiry was punishable by death by one church or another.

It seems that everytime there is a good collection of notes on alchemy, they get "burnt" and dissappear (like an alchemical reaction).

PS. I see we've been moved from Philosophy. Thank you for properly categorizing this thread.

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quantumcarl said:
Please disregard the fact that I misrepresented

If there is a thread on PF that deals with the discoveries Newton found in his Alchemical research, could someone please direct us to it?

It seems that everytime there is a good collection of notes on alchemy, they get "burnt" and dissappear (like an alchemical reaction).
on the first part there are no alchemical discoveries made by newton, unless you consider "not possible" a discovery
and on two there is no such thing as a good collection of notes on alchemy unless you are talking about handwriting, because alchemy doesn't work.

mainly of interest in that it directs you to the Nova program about Newton's alchemy, which probably has info about where else to look for more detail. I'm sure it gets repeated from time to time and is also probably available for purchase. Alchemical notebooks by Newton obviously still exist.

zoobyshoe said:

mainly of interest in that it directs you to the Nova program about Newton's alchemy, which probably has info about where else to look for more detail. I'm sure it gets repeated from time to time and is also probably available for purchase. Alchemical notebooks by Newton obviously still exist.
Thank you Zoobydude!

I realize Newton was a genius, his categorizations and calculus and so many other studies including those of light and colour are amazing.

To think that he had all this knowledge popping-up in his head during a time when you could be imprisoned or even burnt at the stake by the pope in the name of Jesus is a harrowing thought. Even today it seems that the practice and the study of alchemy brings out the bigotry and some kind of falacious snobbery in people who haven't even tried it.

tribdog said:
alchemy doesn't work.
Have you, personally, tried it?

Chi Meson
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quantumcarl said:
Have you, personally, tried it?
Have you tried witchcraft? Voodoo? Bending spoons with your mind? Communicating with the dead? That is where "alchemy" belongs. As knowledge was increased, alchemy was replaced with chemistry. We know exactly how lead can be turned into gold: by removing three protons from each lead nucleus. No chemical process will do that. This is why Newton did not publish his findings: he didn't find anything! He was clever enough to know that he was not getting results wil alchemy.

If you want an open mind about alchemy, you will have to go to a non-scientific forum.

Chi Meson said:
Have you tried witchcraft? Voodoo? Bending spoons with your mind? Communicating with the dead? That is where "alchemy" belongs. As knowledge was increased, alchemy was replaced with chemistry. We know exactly how lead can be turned into gold: by removing three protons from each lead nucleus. No chemical process will do that. This is why Newton did not publish his findings: he didn't find anything! He was clever enough to know that he was not getting results wil alchemy.

If you want an open mind about alchemy, you will have to go to a non-scientific forum.

Actually removing three protons from each lead nucleus wouldn't work, such an isotope would be too neutron rich and would beta decay.

Chi Meson said:
No chemical process will do that (gold from lead). This is why Newton did not publish his findings: he didn't find anything! He was clever enough to know that he was not getting results wil alchemy.

If you want an open mind about alchemy, you will have to go to a non-scientific forum.

What throws me is that gold is somehow created during the volcanic process. That's where gold is found today, in volcanically disrupted areas. Heat has something to do with it... particular minerals... metals... maybe even lead.

However gold gets formed... it definitely boils down to a chemical process... or... is that too unscienterrific for the general discussion area of the Physics Forum?
It sure as heck ain't voodoo. Its more like rocket science and brain surgery, except, no one is admitting to acheiving the goal of creating gold.

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franznietzsche said:
Actually removing three protons from each lead nucleus wouldn't work, such an isotope would be too neutron rich and would beta decay.
If it did work the fedral reserve and all the security at old Fort Knox would be on your A55!

If alchemists have discovered the key to creating gold from some other metal or metals... do you think they'd tell us? Ha :rofl:

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Chi Meson
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quantumcarl said:
What throws me is that gold is somehow created during the volcanic process. That's where gold is found today, in volcanically disrupted areas. Heat has something to do with it... particular minerals... metals... maybe even lead.

Ha ha! good one. Wait, you're serious? You really think volcanos made gold? Where, just where did you get that idea?

Perhaps you are thinking of diamonds?

Chi Meson said:
Ha ha! good one. Wait, you're serious? You really think volcanos made gold? Where, just where did you get that idea?

Perhaps you are thinking of diamonds?
I don't know if I should help you out here! You might run into some voodoo witchcraft weilding mammas doing the bubble bubble boil and trouble trick on ya!!

But, in all fairness, its on the web. Here's one source for you.

Just stay off my claim, yeh hear?!!! Damn tarnationed varmants.

http://www.em.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geolsurv/MetallicMinerals/MineralDepositProfiles/Profiles/I04.htm [Broken]

You may also note that whenever surface gold is found it is found within the blast radius of a volcano that has blown its stack however many years and however many times in the past.

Prospectors are often fooled by this voodoo-like deception and they set up a claim and bore cores at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars... finding zippilita y nada.

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Chi Meson
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To assume that the gold deposits in/near/around volcanos is due to alchemy is absurd. In a one minute google search I found (including yours) several decent explanations as to why gold is there.

It is due to a chemical process known as precipitation. Google this:

[put in search line:] vocano "precipitation of gold"

The process seems to be well documented and well understood. It is chemical, not "alchemical."

Janus
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Chi Meson said:
To assume that the gold deposits in/near/around volcanos is due to alchemy is absurd. In a one minute google search I found (including yours) several decent explanations as to why gold is there.

It is due to a chemical process known as precipitation. Google this:

[put in search line:] vocano "precipitation of gold"

The process seems to be well documented and well understood. It is chemical, not "alchemical."
Or to put it another way, the gold is not created by the volcano, but existing gold is concentrated into deposits by the volcano.

Janus said:
Or to put it another way, the gold is not created by the volcano, but existing gold is concentrated into deposits by the volcano.
That may explain the presence of gold at every volcanic site that's been studied. Or it may only be a convenient explaination for something else that occurs at these sites. Like gold formation.

Marine Geology Research Laboratory, Department of Geology, University of Toronto, 22 Russell Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3B1

Raymond A. Binns

CSIRO Exploration and Mining, P.O. Box 136, North Ryde, New South Wales 1670, Australia

Corresponding author: e-mail, roger@quartz.geology.utoronto.ca

Hydrothermal precipitates associated with active vents in the eastern Manus back-arc basin, Papua New Guinea, are among the most gold rich yet discovered on the modern sea floor.

The volcanic rocks associated with this mineralization were investigated to determine if they are sufficiently enriched in gold to account for the gold content of the sulfides by simple leaching and to determine whether or not any evidence for a magmatic fluid exists.

The gold content of unaltered volcanic glass and glassy volcanic rocks from the eastern Manus basin ranges from <1 to 15 ppb and averages 6 ± 3 (1) ppb. These concentrations are similar to volcanic rocks from the Lau, Japan, and Yamato back-arc basins but are significantly higher than those from midocean ridges and submarine-arc volcanic rocks.
So you're telling me the gold already existed before the magma broke to the surface and somehow, in all the comotion, the gold was deposited, firmly, in volcanic glass. Quartz-gold veining, which is indicative of formation due to extreme heat, also points to a genisis of gold because of volcanic activity. Gold has to be formed somehow and precipitated or not, it is my guess that its formed by natural metallurgical processes that occur during volcanic, continental/oceanic plate or oceanic/oceanic plate subduction activity.

Whether this is chemistry or alchemy depends on who you talk to. For instance one of the kind contributors has already said here that alchemy was the parent practise that gave rise to chemistry. Alchemy does not have the same verification system and discoveries in alchemy may have been lost to witch hunts and inquisitions and tax investigators. But there exist today in chemistry similar if not exact duplicates of methodologies once used in alchemy.

Janus
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quantumcarl said:
Whether this is chemistry or alchemy depends on who you talk to. For instance one of the kind contributors has already said here that alchemy was the parent practise that gave rise to chemistry. Alchemy does not have the same verification system and discoveries in alchemy may have been lost to witch hunts and inquisitions and tax investigators. But there exist today in chemistry similar if not exact duplicates of methodologies once used in alchemy.
The fact that Alchemists may have uncovered some chemical facts in their quest for the "Philosopher's Stone", does not lend any support to their belief in its existance. Just like the fact that Columbus found the American Continent did not prove that the World was as small as he thought it was.

Janus said:
The fact that Alchemists may have uncovered some chemical facts in their quest for the "Philosopher's Stone", does not lend any support to their belief in its existance. Just like the fact that Columbus found the American Continent did not prove that the World was as small as he thought it was.
I think you're over generalizing the "quest" of alchemists.

Here is a nice re-count of Newton's intentions by William Newman, professor of History and Philosophy of Science:

I am at present deciphering Isaac Newton's chymical laboratory notebooks and manuscripts, the subject of a forthcoming BBC/NOVA documentary, much of which was filmed at IU. Newton spent some thirty years working on chymistry, and yet the goals of his project and their relationship to his physics and religion remain obscure. One thing is clear, however. Newton based his research heavily on the work of "Eirenaeus Philalethes" or George Starkey, about whom I have written extensively. Hence my background in Starkey's work gives me an important Ariadne's thread into the labyrinth of Newton's alchemy, and one that I am busily exploiting. At the same time, Newton left clear directions for making chymical furnaces and other apparatus, as well as processes for the star regulus of antimony, a copper-antimony alloy called "the net," and other products of the laboratory. He also wrote a manuscript discussing metallic "vegetation," the formation of dendrites from salts and metals. To Newton, the fact that metals could be made to grow in a flask was a sign that they possessed a sort of life, and could therefore be made to ferment, putrefy, and ultimately multiply.

With the aid of Cathrine Reck and the IU Chemistry Department, I am presently replicating a number of these processes in order to determine the precise nature of Newton's research. With the help of John Goodheart and Tim Mather at the IU Pottery Studio, I've also built a working replica of one of Newton's laboratory furnaces. I am also involved in "The Newton Project," an initiative originating at Imperial College London to prepare a digital edition of Newton's alchemical and theological manuscripts.

Newton was fascinated by "the net," the beautiful purple alloy that he made of antimony regulus and copper. Upon close inspection, one can see that the alloy has a surface made up of small crystals separated by interstices. Newton's predecessor and source, "Eirenaeus Philalethes" - the American alchemist George Starkey - first discovered this alloy and named it "the Net," on the basis of its physical appearance. Like Newton, Starkey believed that most of ancient Greco-Roman mythology was really encoded alchemy. The story that Vulcan, the husband of Venus, caught Venus and Mars in bed, in flagrante delictu, became for him (and for Newton), a recipe for "the Net." According to the myth, Vulcan made a fine metallic net and hung the two lovers from the ceiling for all the Olympians to see. Now in alchemy, "Venus" usually means "copper," "Mars" means "iron," and "Vulcan" means "fire." Hence "Venus" referred to the copper in the alloy, and "Vulcan" to the intense heat used in making it. Since the antimony regulus that is added to the copper is itself reduced from stibnite (antimony sulfide) by the addition of iron, "Mars" (iron) was thought to be present in "the Net" as well. Voila - the whole myth becomes a recipe for "the Net."