Archaeologists have found alchemical artifacts across Europe, showing the popularity of this proto-science, although the potential for riches offered by the transmutation of base metals into gold probably lay behind the popularity.Certainly, great minds such as John Dee (1527–1608) spent a lot of time in this pursuit, often attracting the patronage of rich sponsors.
During his stay in Toledo, in Spain, and Northern Italy, Scott translated many Arabic works into Latin, including the work of Aristotle, and he gained a position as the Royal Astrologer of Frederick II of Spain.
Scott dedicated a treatise, De Secretis, to his patron, although he, like many alchemists, was accused of practicing black magic and summoning demons.
For example, natural science and physics were still largely observational and theoretical, whereas alchemists already used a method involving inductive and deductive reasoning to arrive at conclusions.
Many alchemists during the Renaissance Era conducted controlled experiments and used trial and error to discover the nature of substances, studying how they reacted, interacted and changed under new conditions.
The mysterious, occult side of alchemy still captures the imagination of the modern public, with Harry Potter chasing the elusive Philosopher’s Stone and names such as John Dee spawning thousands of occult sites studying the esoteric symbolism behind alchemical symbols.
Most of the modern interpretations have a basis in historical fact, and writers such as Chaucer, Ben Jonson, and Dante gleefully included alchemists as shady charlatans and figures of parody.
Gerard of Cremona (1114 – 1187) and Robertus Castrensis (c1150) were just two of the translators who made the original Arabic texts available in Latin.
Alchemy was already a well-established discipline, influencing metallurgy and medicine and, as with many branches of science, it became tied to the religious establishment with which it would share an uneasy alliance over the next few centuries.
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