Alchemy and Modern Chemistry


Alchemy whilst being the study of such wild theories as the transmutation of metals and prolonging of life also had many useful origins of chemistry today from drug design to experimental techniques we still use in the lab today.

Alchemy did provide the grounds and basis for the development of some modern chemical techniques and fields we still know today. In Chinese alchemy the use of herbs and natural remedies formed the basis of many herbal medicines and pursuits of natural treatments which are still practiced today in Chinese medicine a multi million dollar industry of alternative treatments. It also lead to the discovery of black powder which was discovered around the 9th century and was used traditionally in fireworks before being used in guns.

The use of herbal and natural remedies also laid the foundations for the modern pharmaceutical industry. Prompting chemists and biologists to look at natural chemicals and complexes and show they can modify or use these to treat diseases. Many drugs designed nowadays are derived from natural products produced by plants, tress and animals.

Alchemy practiced in Greece and Egypt contributed to the discovery of metallurgy and dyes used for making weapons and clothes, some natural processes which are still practiced today in he production of clothes across the world. Alchemists laid the foundation for the discovery of coloured dyes and creation of synthetic versions in the production of cloths and paints.

Alchemists also contributed to many modern scientific techniques still used today. In the Islamic world it was the alchemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan who in the 8th century developed many scientific techniques we know today and also promoted the use of recording of methods and equipment to spread and share his knowledge. Jabir Ibn Hayyan promoted the use of common methods such as distillation and crystallisation. It as not just his discoveries of methods and experimental techniques that was important but his recording and sharing of his ideas that allowed these now common practices to spread. Jabir is credited with producing over 3000 articles during his life, influencing alchemist all over the world. Jabir is also often credited with being the first person to classify elements based on their properties; spirit elements that could easily be evaporated, metals like silver and lead and finally stone elements that could be turned easily into powders. Amongst other discoveries he also developed the process of steel making, the production of glass and dyeing materials all vital processes in the chemical world today.

During the medieval periods knowledge that was discovered and shared in the Islamic, Greek and Egyptian empires was lost and often forgotten setting the study of alchemy back. The growth of religion was also used to suppress a lot of alchemists work and some studies of alchemy were banned in any western countries. It was not until the 17th century that common alchemy began to be ignored and forgotten. With the rise of modern scientific techniques pioneered by Robert Boyle in the 1600’s this observational and experimental lead approach led to the foundations of modern chemistry as we know it. Whilst many practices in alchemy can be overlooked and forgotten it did contribute a large number of methods and practices to today’s modern study of chemistry through its theories and practices.

Terms in section

Alchemy is the term given to old historical practices and experiments people used to conduct into materials and their properties before modern scientific techniques were discovered.


A forefather is something that has come before and is usually the basis for some discoveries.


Transmutation is term used to describe the changing of one metal into another.


A precious metal is a metal that has a high value commonly elements like gold, silver and platinum.


An elixir is a potion or mixture of liquids that was viewed as important to discover as it would cure diseases.


Immortality is the term given to when a person would live forever and never die.

Nuclear Fusion

Nuclear fusion is a process which occurs in. the sun. Hydrogen atoms under a lot of heat and pressure are forced together to make a larger atom of helium


Elements are atoms with the same number of protons in the nucleus


A proton is a positive particle that makes up the atom in the nucleus with a positive charge


A panacea is an old word to describe a chemical or discovery that would cure all illnesses.


Black powder is a term used to describe gun powder a chemical that when discovered in china and a flame put near it would explode releasing a lot of energy.

Jabir Ibn Hayyan

Jabir Ibn Hayyan was a famous Islamic philosopher, scientist and scholar who discovered many different scientific techniques and chemicals in the 8th century.


Distillation is a separation technique that can be used to separate out liquids from each other by their boiling points.

Robert Boyle

Robert Boyle was an English philosopher who is considered as the first chemist due to his experimental techniques who discovered the link between changing a gases pressure and its volume.


An alchemist is the term given to a scientist who practiced the investigation of materials and changing of elements but not using very scientific techniques.


History of Chemistry: Alchemy


History of Chemistry: Alchemy Symbols