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Isaac Newton and the Transmutation of Alchemy: An Alternative View of the Scientific Revolution Paperback – July 7, 2009

2.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Educated at Swarthmore, Philip Fanning gained a scrupulous understanding of the culture of modern science during twenty years with W. H. Freeman and Company, the book-publishing arm of Scientific American. His discovery that Isaac Newton was an alchemist led him to a research project that consumed three years and resulted in this pioneering study. As he observes, "I can't help but feel that even though Newton deliberately concealed his greatest contribution to the history of thought, part of him hoped it would eventually see the light of day." Fanning is also the author of Mark Twain and Orion Clemens: Brothers, Partners, Strangers (2003). He lives in San Francisco.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556437722
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556437724
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,371,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul J. Werbos on December 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book provides an important but useful antidote to conventional wisdom about a period which
had a pivotal effect on the later course of Western civilization. A large fraction of the references
are new to me, and sound quite interesting.

In a way, the book takes off on John Maynard Keynes's statement that Newton was "the last alchemist." I have read a number of biographies of Newton, which make him sound like 90% a cardboard character whose entire life could pass a very narrow peer review, and 10% a sheer nasty small lunatic. The book gives many pointers to other aspects of Newton's life
essential to really understanding his perspective. But in the end... it makes me think of a critique by Aleister Crowley of
Karl Marx's view of religion. An antithesis has been badly needed here, but this is not the kind of synthesis which lets us truly appreciate the synthesis.

To set the stage, the first two parts of the book are mainly about John Dee (whom the author clearly adores)
and Francis Bacon (whom he basically trashes as a two-faced hypocrite). Pages 153 to 211 address Newton himself.

Given the many references and details, I can't claim to have digested eveything as yet. But here are my impressions.

Fanning discusses the swirl of four major streams of thought -- modern science (the kind of
social enterprise that Thomas Kuhn talks about), physical alchemy (lots of quicksilver really burning, and really trying to get more gold), ceremonial magic and spiritual alchemy. That's his way of describing it.

He describes John Dee (with support from Queen Elizabeth, who was certainly a pivotal figure) as the hidden main source of
Western culture in all these areas except for mnodern science itself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why must they do this? Why all these books that are worse than worthless?

Here's the real stuff

Cannabis in Alchemical Literature: Green Lion, Philosopher's Stone

Three things suffice for the work: a white smoke, which is water; a green Lion, which is the ore of Hermes, and a fetid water... The stone, known from the chapters of books, is white smoke and water.

Michael Maier
Atalanta Fugiens

Of this self-same body, which is the matter of the Stone, three things are chiefly said; that it is a green Lion, a stinking Gum, and a white Fume... Having twelve pounds of Green Lion thus brought into gum, thou mayst believe...

St. Dunstan (pseudo)
Philosophia Maturata

A green Gum called our green Lyon, which Gum dry well, yet beware thou not burn his Flowers nor destroy his greenness.

Sir George Ripley
The Bosome-Book of Sir George Ripley

You will see marvelous signs of this Green Lion, such as could be bought by no treasures of the Roman Leo. Happy he who has found it and learned to use it as a treasure!

Paracelsus
The Treasure of Treasures

Beware therefore of many, and hold thee to one thing. This one thing is naught else but the lyon greene...

Bloomfield's Blossoms

Perfect bodies we naturally calcine with the first, without adding any impure body but one commonly called by philosophers the green lion, and this is the medium for perfectly combining the tinctures of the Sun and Moon.
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Well, this book wasn't useful for my research, because it is written in non-academic style. But for beginners this book can be very helpful.
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