Using the previously misunderstood interactions between Robert Boyle, widely known as "the father of chemistry," and George Starkey, an alchemist and the most prominent American scientific writer before Benjamin Franklin, as their guide, William R. Newman and Lawrence M. Principle reveal the hitherto hidden operations of Starkey's laboratory and argue that many of the principles and practices characteristic of modern chemistry derive from alchemy. By analyzing Starkey's extraordinary laboratory notebooks, the authors show how this American "chymist" translated the wildly figurative writings of traditional alchemy into quantitative, carefully reasoned laboratory practice - and then encoded his own work in allegorical, secretive treatises under the name of Eirenaeus Philalethes. A common emphasis on quantification, material production, and analysis/synthesis, the authors argue, illustrates a continuity of goals and practices from late medieval alchemy down to and beyond the Chemical Revolution.
William R. Newman is professor of history and philosophy of science at Indiana University. He is the author of The Summa Perfectionis of Pseudo-Geber: A Critical Edition, Translation, and Study and Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution. Lawrence M. Principe is professor of the history of science and technology and of chemistry at The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and His Alchemical Quest and coeditor of The Correspondence of Robert Boyle.