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Makers of Chemistry

Nature volume 128, pages 321322 (29 August 1931) | Download Citation



MANY efforts have been made to assign an origin to alchemy. In less critical and sophisticated ages than ours, individual founders were sought: for example, in Thoth or Hermes; in Muhammad or the Caliph Ali; in Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, or Democritus; and in the patriarchs. Thus, Moses, from his convincing manipulation of the golden calf, was elected a member of this strange chemical society; Miriam, his sister, was added on account of her supposed invention of the water-bath; Tubal-Cain was welcomed as the metallurgical expert; Cleopatra, a second and rather disturbing woman member, was elected in recognition of her early work on calcium acetate; Jason was admitted as the first gold-maker; Hermes evidently troubled the publication committee with his 36,000 original contributions to chemical literature; “finally”, as Dr. Holmyard remarks, “the Song of Solomon is an alchemical treatise, and chemistry is so called because it was invented by Noah's son Shem or Chem”! According to this intriguing conceit, Shem may have fitted up the first chemical laboratory in the Ark!

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