There are many ways to examine the subject of alchemy, including alchemy as a source of symbolism, psychology, and mysticism. It has also been an influence on the world view of various writers, artist, and musicians. The focus of this report is alchemy as a pre-chemistry, which gave a new impulse towards the preparation of medicinal remedies and also was a major influence on today's scientific investigations.
Alchemy is an ancient art, practiced in the Middle Ages. The fundamental concept of alchemy stemmed from Aristotle's doctrine that all things tend to reach perfection. Because other metals were thought to be less perfect than gold, it was reasonable to believe that nature created gold out of other metals found deep within the earth and that a skilled artisan could duplicate this process. It was said that once someone was able to change, or transmute a "base" chemical into the perfect metal, gold, they would have achieved eternal life and salvation. In this way, alchemy turned into not only a scientific quest, but a spiritual quest as well. Although the purposes and techniques were often times ritualistic and fanciful, alchemy was in many ways the predecessor of modern science, especially the science of chemistry.
The birthplace of alchemy was ancient Egypt, where, in Alexandria, it began to flourish during the Hellenistic period. Also at that time, a school of alchemy was developing in China. The writings of some Greek philosophers may be considered to be among the very first chemical theories, such as the theory that all things are composed of air, earth, fire, and water. Each of these were represented by different elements, such as sulfur, salt, mercury, and, ideally, gold. Other ideas held by alchemists were that each of the known elements were represented by heavenly bodies. Gold was earth's representation of the sun, silver for the moon, mercury for the planet Mercury, copper for Venus, iron for Mar...