- Hardcover: 364 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books (July 1, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616149159
- ISBN-13: 978-1616149154
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Chemistry of Alchemy: From Dragon's Blood to Donkey Dung, How Chemistry Was Forged
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“Twenty-first-century safety standards are mixed with fourteenth-century experiments in a breezy exposition. The discussion of ‘proof by authority’ not only illuminates the sources of the philosophers’ stone but also suggests that similar thinking is active in modern politics and religion. This is the first account of alchemy I have seen that I would characterize as both light and enlightening reading. The chemical experiments may not be as flashy as they would have been centuries (or even decades) ago, but they’re colorful enough to be preferable to most currently available home chemistry sets. The description of isolating sal ammoniac from natural sources will leave the reader in stitches if not in stenches.”
—Alexander Scheeline, emeritus professor of chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“The authors have removed alchemy from the realm of magic to show the actual chemistry behind it, and include experiments the reader can do at home.”
—John A. Pojman, PhD, professor of chemistry, Louisiana State University
“The Chemistry of Alchemy gives the chemist’s perspective, in nontechnical language, to the core history of alchemy and its importance to modern chemistry. Selected works illustrating key concepts from alchemy are reproduced in carefully designed experiments throughout the book. The alchemists’ quest for gold was not in vain, as they contributed and refined many scientific concepts we have today.”
—Stephen L. Crump, PhD, Savannah River National Laboratory
About the Author
Cathy Cobb is the author of The Joy of Chemistry (with Monty L. Fetterolf); Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth (with Monty L. Fetterolf and Jack G. Goldsmith); Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks; and Creations of Fire (with Harold Goldwhite). She is an instructor of chemistry, physics, and calculus at Mead Hall School in Aiken, South Carolina.
Monty L. Fetterolf is the author of The Joy of Chemistry (with Cathy Cobb); Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth (with Cathy Cobb and Jack G. Goldsmith). He is a professor of chemistry and the department chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.
Harold Goldwhite, emeritus professor of chemistry at California State University, Los Angeles, is the author of eight textbooks on chemistry, and Creations of Fire (with Cathy Cobb).
Top customer reviews
In the search for a way to make gold from other materials, the pioneers of alchemy made important discoveries about the nature of physical substances that are still pertinent today.
Cobb and her co-authors bring these ancient alchemists to life and blow the (gold) dust off the history of chemistry making it vivid and enchanting.
Each chapter in this lucid text concludes with a experiment well within the reach of the home amateur chemist ; I haven't tried any myself yet but the authors really make it enticing.
Anyone who's a modern chemist, amateur or professional, will be fascinated by uncovering the roots of this science and seeing how many modern concepts we owe to these ancestors.
1. There is an incorrect formula written (multiple times) for copper(II) sulfate. It is the kind of error that is commonly made by beginning (but typically not advanced) students, and one that cannot be easily explained as a simple typo. (The correct formula is CuSO4, but the formula listed was Cu(SO4)2, which does not exist.) As the text was written by 3 chemistry professors/instructors, I found this to be very disappointing, and it made me question the accuracy of the information that I did not know well.
2. The middle of the text is much poorer in quality than the beginning and the end. I don't know if the authors got bored in the middle, or if a portion of it simply wasn't edited properly. The tone becomes much more dull, the sentences become much more poorly structured and difficult to read, and the overall organization is a bit more scattered. Fortunately, this noticeable decrease in quality only lasts for about a chapter, and the writing improves again towards the end of the book.
In summary, I'd recommend the book with those two disclaimers (which could be easily remedied with another edition of the book!).
The projects you can do I will work on later but I am sure they can be fun things to do with the family and teach a little history at the same time.