1.1 What is Chemistry?

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1.1. What is Chemistry? http://www.ck12.org


Pictures of herbal medicines. The Arabic
text is from around 1330 A.D.

both the ancient Egyptian society and during the Roman Empire, the gold mines were the property of the state and
did not belong to any one individual or group. As a result, there were few ways for most people to legally get any
gold for themselves.

Thealchemistswere a varied group of scholars and charlatans (Figure1.3). Two of the ultimate goals of alchemy
were to create thePhilosopher’s Stone(which is a substance that could cause the transmutation of lead into gold)
and the Elixir of Life (which would bestow immortality on the person who possessed it). The origin of the term
“alchemy” is uncertain, and the roots of this word are related to a number of Greek, Arabic, and ancient Egyptian
words. Three major branches of alchemy are known (Chinese, Indian, and European), and all three have certain
factors in common. We will not focus on the philosophical or religious aspects of alchemy, but we will look briefly
at the techniques developed by European alchemists that ultimately influenced the development of the science of


An alchemist at work on his laboratory.

Many of the specific approaches that alchemists used when they tried changing lead into gold are vague and unclear.

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