This paper explores the chemistry of mercury as described in ancient alchemical literature. Alchemy’s focuson the knowledge and manipulation of natural substances is not so different from modern chemistry’spurposes. The great divide between the two is marked by the way of conceptualizing and recording theirpractices. Our interdisciplinary research group, composed of chemists and historians of science, has set offto explore the cold and hot extraction of mercury from cinnabar. The ancient written records have beenperused in order to devise laboratory experiments that could shed light on the material reality behind thealchemical narratives and interpret textual details in a unique perspective. In this way, it became possible totranslate the technical lore of ancient alchemy into the modern language of chemistry. Thanks to thereplication of alchemical practices, chemistry can regain its centuries-long history that has fallen intooblivion.

Exploring the Ancient Chemistry of Mercury

Marianna Marchini;Massimo Gandolfi;Lucia Maini
;
Lucia Raggetti;Matteo Martelli
2022

Abstract

This paper explores the chemistry of mercury as described in ancient alchemical literature. Alchemy’s focuson the knowledge and manipulation of natural substances is not so different from modern chemistry’spurposes. The great divide between the two is marked by the way of conceptualizing and recording theirpractices. Our interdisciplinary research group, composed of chemists and historians of science, has set offto explore the cold and hot extraction of mercury from cinnabar. The ancient written records have beenperused in order to devise laboratory experiments that could shed light on the material reality behind thealchemical narratives and interpret textual details in a unique perspective. In this way, it became possible totranslate the technical lore of ancient alchemy into the modern language of chemistry. Thanks to thereplication of alchemical practices, chemistry can regain its centuries-long history that has fallen intooblivion.
Marianna Marchini; Massimo Gandolfi; Lucia Maini; Lucia Raggetti; Matteo Martelli;
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/886755
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