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Title: Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory
Author: Morrisson, Mark
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Publication Date: 2007
Hardcover; ISBN: 9780195306965
Volumes: 1; Pages: 272
List Price in Cloth: $34.99 Our price: $27.99
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While many alchemists were intelligent and well-intentioned thinkers, their experiments are usually regarded as failed wizardry, not scientific investigation. Whether seeking to produce a miraculous panacea or struggling to transmute lead into gold, the alchemists' extreme goals faded with the rise of scientific pursuits. The transition from alchemy to modern science is thus seen as one that discarded fantastic ideas about philosopher's stones and magic potions in exchange for modest yet steady results. It has been rarely noted, however, that the birth of atomic science coincided with an efflorescence of occultism and alchemical tropes that attached deep significance to questions about the nature of matter and energy.Mark S. Morrisson explores this brief revival of scientific interest in alchemy and its surprising connections to the emerging subatomic sciences of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He shows that a resurfacing of occult circles and alchemical tropes had a traceable impact upon the science of the day. He reveals unexpected interactions between science and the occult, such as the Alchemical Society in London (1912-1915), the research program of "clairvoyant chemistry," and the attempts of academic chemists, inspired by the alchemy revival, to transmute the elements-even to make gold.Morrisson's important research uncovers the surprising story of how this alchemical revival influenced, and was in turn profoundly shaped by, conceptions of matter emerging from the new science of radioactivity. Examining scientists' publications, correspondence, talks, and laboratory notebooks as well as the writings of occultists, alchemical tomes, and science fiction stories, Morrisson argues that as modern nuclear physics was born, the trajectories of science and occultism-usually seen as antithetical-briefly converged.Features* Proposes the interesting theory that hermetic and Theosophical groups were attempting to re-enchant science.* Significant contribution to the fields of history of science and history of occultism.