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Question on Jabir's, an alchemist, thought on gold

  1. Sep 16, 2013 #1
    From ''A Brief History Of Chemistry'' by Isaac Asimov:

    ''It seemed to Jabir that the different metals were made up of different mixtures of mercury and sulfur, and it remained only to find some material that would facilitate the mixture of mercury and sulfur in the proper proportions to produce gold.''

    What I don't understand is if Jabir thought the ''different metals were made up of different mixtures of mercury and sufur'', why would production of gold need another material? Wouldn't just mixing MERCURY and sulfur in different proportions would do the job? Wouldn't addition of a different material actually make it something not gold?

    PS: I know that alchemy is not real, and no gold can be produced in such way.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013
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  3. Sep 17, 2013 #2

    Borek

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    Alchemists didn't know much about the real chemistry but they were not idiots, so I suppose they checked many proportions first, perhaps even in a systematic way. It didn't work, so perhaps they started to look for some kind of catalyst (to use todays nomenclature). But that's just a speculation.
     
  4. Sep 17, 2013 #3

    DrClaude

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    Because it was not a question of proportion, but a question of getting them to mix in the "right way" to make gold. In some sense, alchemists were looking for a "catalyst" that would get the metals to react in a special fashion that would produce gold.

    Read up on the Philosopher's[/PLAIN] [Broken] stone to learn more about their way of thinking.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Sep 17, 2013 #4

    UltrafastPED

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  6. Sep 17, 2013 #5
    Thank you very much for your answer. Yes, I thought they used it as a catalyst, too. Then I thought if they were already familiar with the concept of a catalyst. It seems they did, as since antiquity, man was familiar with the use of yeast as a catalyst in the production of wine. However, yeast is actually a living thing.

    Do you know of use of any non-living thing as catalyst in pre-civilization period?

    PS: Jabir developed the idea of such a material in 10th century.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  7. Sep 17, 2013 #6
    Yes, I already read about this philosopher's stone thing. Since they were experimenting with a possible catalyst, I guess they already tried with applying heat and pressure, since it is very likely that they already noticed the effect of heat or pressure on change of matters ( For example, if you keep rice in normal water for a week, you can't eat it. Boil it for half an hour, it would be edible. )

    However, I thought if they really knew about catalysts ( The term ''catalyst'' was coined only in the 19th century. ) I looked for on the internet, and found that since antiquity, man was familiar with use of yeast as a catalyst in the production of wine. However, yeast is actually a living thing.

    Do you know of use of any non-living thing as catalyst in the pre-alchemy period?

    PS: Jabir developed the idea of such a material in 10th century.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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