It appears to be the case that Isaac Newton was apparently interested in alchemy. One of the manuscripts that he wrote showed proof of this fact.
A 17th century manuscript that used to be in the custody of Sir Isaac Newton is being shifted online for the perusal of the general public. It lends a wonderful view into the thinking and creative genius of Newton.
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It is basically a handwritten copy of another person who gives the details about making sophik mercury. This was apparently an essential element in the making of the philosopher’s stone. The philosopher’s stone could supposedly transmute base metals into gold.
"The significance of the manuscript is that it helps us understand Newton's alchemical reading -- especially of his favorite author -- and gives us evidence of one more of his laboratory procedures," James Voelkel, curator of rare books at the Chemical Heritage Foundation's Othmer Library of Chemical History, told CNN.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation bought the manuscript and placed digital images of it online for all to see. It is in Latin and English. Isaac Newton may have been a very rational man but he had his side interests.
One of them was alchemy as was the fashion in those times. The alchemical readings from his favorite author, George Starkey led to the experiments in the laboratory which he carried out.
There are actually very many alchemical scripts that were owned by Newton. Throughout his lifetime, Newton wrote some 1,000,000 words related to the alchemical arts. This manuscript is just one of many such pieces of paper that hold Newton’s theories about the philosopher’s stone.
Newton got his alchemical views from Starkey. Writing in Latin as Eiraneus Philalethes, Starkey produced a text on sophik mercury in 1678. Newton’s manuscript is just a copy of the original though.
Newton corrected and made amendments to some of the things found in Starkey’s script. He also jotted down stuff about the distillation of iron ore on the back of the manuscript. These were probably lab notes. Newton may have been on to something here.
We all know that though alchemy was a pseudoscience like astrology, it gave birth to modern day chemistry like the latter gave birth to today’s astronomy.
Isaac Newton, in order to capture the insights of his quick mind, would write down the stuff that he was thinking about on the back of the manuscript.
The blank page served as an imprint-bearer of his thoughts in legible script. It was not until Newton’s demise that a proper base was laid for modern day chemistry.
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That was when the mother pseudoscience that is alchemy took a backseat and went the way of so much futile blind alleys in the quest for authentic scientific knowledge.