The first laboratory workers were alchemists, and their principal goal was the conversion of base metals into gold. Alchemy was first practised in Alexandria, and the Hellenistic phase of alchemy lasted until the seventh century AD, when the dramatic expansion of Islam occurred. For the next 500 years the chief practitioners of alchemy came from the world of Islam. Then, in the twelfth century, when Islamic power was in decline, Arabic alchemical manuscripts began to be translated into Latin, and the European phase of alchemy began. The art was practised in Europe for the next 500 years, before entering a slow decline.


Base Metal Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century Distillation Apparatus Slake Lime 
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Copyright information

© John Hudson 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Hudson
    • 1
  1. 1.Anglia Polytechnic UniversityCambridgeUK

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