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A Miscellany of Alchemists

King Charles II

King Charles II

Rumour has it that King Charles had a laboratory underneath his chambers.

Marcello Malpighi in 1677 describes the German chemist Balduin sending specimens of phosphorus to both the King Charles II and the Royal Society. In fact, the substance was later shown to have been calcium nitrate. He notes that it ‘absorbs the light of the sun or a lamp that afterwards, in the dark, it radiates like
incandescent iron or charcoal’.

He also observes that this was a different substance from ‘Bologna stone’, a source of baryte, some species of which, like phosphorus, emit a glow on contact with oxygen. This property of the stone made it the focus of attention from alchemists, who identified it as the long sought after ‘philosopher’s stone’, capable of
transforming metals into gold.


Emperor Rudolph II (1552 – 1612)

Emperor Rudolph II

Holy Roman Emperor (from m 1576) who remained hostile to Rome for most of his reign. His religious dissent eventually led to the thirty years war (1618 -1648). He was the son of the emperor Maximilian II. by his wife Maria, daughter of the emperor Charles V and was born in Vienna on the 18th of July 1552

Sympathetic to alchemists, he sheltered a number of them from the wrath of the church authorities including John Dee, although in the case of Dee and Rabbi Leow, not without conditions:

"Rudolph instantly switches from petulance to autocratic mania:
Two eminent English alchemists one, Queen Elizabeth’s legendary John Dee
will be sent for to prepare, on pain of death, an eternal-life elixir.
As backup, Rudolph commands Prague’s likewise legendary Rabbi Loew to devise, on
pain of the destruction of the Jewish quarter and its inhabitants, an immortality spell."


Geoffrey Chaucer (1340 - 1400)

Geoffrey Chaucer

Alchemy gets a mention in the Canon's Tale of the Canterbury Tales. The Yeoman describes his master's fruitless quest for the Philosopher's Stone. There is enough detail in the story to suspect that Chaucer knew more about alchemy than he admitted to.

Chaucer's friend John Gower is believed to have been an alchemist and probably instructed Chaucer. Alchemy appears in Gower's poem."Confessio Amantis".

Chaucer is aloso believed to have been involved in espionage and died in a fight at a safe house in Deptford operated by Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth the First.


Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

Everyone knows that Sir Isaac Newton was a scientist. Less well known is that he was also a Member of Parliament and an alchemist.

He began experimenting with alchemy in 1669 just before becoming Lucasian Pofessor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a chair held in present times by Stephen Hawking.

Newton burned a number of his papers shortly before his death and these may have included alchemical and magical essays. Newton regarded alchemy as not only important but positively dangerous to the human race, which may be why he burned so many papers. However, many of his papers relating to these subjects have survived though only a small fraction have been published.

His dealing in alchemy were so successfully concealed by his friends after his death, that nothing was known of them until an auction of his papers at Sotheby's in 1936 brought them to light. It is considered that his alchemical work may have inspired his greatest work, the Principia.


Robert Boyle (1627 - 1691)

Boyle is known in school science lessons as the originator of "Boyle's Law", which relates to gas pressures. Boyle also dabbled in Alchemy


Georgius Agricola (1494 – 1595)

Best known for his work De Re Metallica (on metallurgy), which was the standard reference on mines and mining technology for many years,
Agricola is widely regarded as the father of modern metallurgy.


Albertus Magnus (193 – 1280)

One of the first European adepts, the Doctor Universalis Magnus was also known for his scientific work which included the discovery of Potassium.


Eugene Canseliet (1899 – 1981)

Disciple of Fulcanelli. See our article on Fulcanelli for more information.


Lady Anne Conway (1631 - 1679)

Ragley Hall

Presided over the most important hermetic circle of the day at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire.


Jean-Julien Champagne (1877 – 1972), Pierre Dujols (1972 – 1926), Rene Schwaller de Lubicz (1887 – 1961)

Variously considered to be Fulcanelli. Again, see our article on Fulcanelli.

. Marie Curie

Marie (1867 – 1954 and Pierre (1859 – 1906) Curie

Discoverers of Radium and Nobel Prize winners, the Curies also studied alchemy. Their Prima Materia was reputedly pitchblende.
After Pierre’s death, Marie was approached by a mysterious Cabal who advised her to end her studies of alchemy as it would seriously affect her growing reputation.


Lascarius (lived early eighteenth century)

Almost nothing is known of his life except that he was of Greek origin but he allegedly performed a double transmutation in Germany on February 16, 1709.
Other transmutations were attributed to him.


Marie Zeigler (died 1575)

Arrested and then roasted to death in an iron chair for refusing to divulge her secrets to Julius of Brunswick.


Queen Christina of Sweden (1626 - 1689)

Queen Christina abdicated in 1654 and went to Rome. There she converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and presided over a hermetic circle.

Acknowledgements and further reading:

Sean MartinAlchemy, the Philosopher's StoneWildwood House
Gilchrist, CherryAlchemy, The Great WorkThorsons
Innes, BrianThe Search For The Philosopher's Stone Orbis
Klossowski de Rola, StanislasAlchemy, The Secret ArtThames and Hudson
Redgrove, StanleyAlchemy Ancient and ModernAres

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© Ken James 2008