[Alchemical scene showing two putti holding philosopher's stone containing image of Hermes, below which are a man and a woman kneeling before furnace where transmutation is to take place]
Illus. in: Mutus liber / Altus. 1702, pl. 11.
A medieval philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of the panacea, and the preparation of the elixir of longevity. It was practiced in most of the ancient world, from China and India to Greece. Alchemy migrated to Egypt and was later revived in 12th-century Europe through translations of Arabic texts into Latin. Medieval European alchemists made some useful discoveries, including mineral acids and alcohol. The revival led to the development of pharmacology and to the rise of modern chemistry. The gold-making processes of alchemists were finally discredited, but not until the 19th century.