The search for the secret recipe that turned common metals into gold was a real quest back in the seventieth century. Alchemy was considered a real science back then, and the “chymistry” that it involved represented the foundation of present-day chemistry. And it seems that the philosopher’s stone is what Harry Potter and Isaac Newton have in common.
In J.K. Rowling’s “The Philosopher’s Stone”, Harry Potter discovers that his mortal enemy is trying to get his hands on the object that is able to turn ordinary metal into gold and offer unnaturally long life to the person possessing it.
In the fictional work, the stone was created by Nicholas Flamel, an alchemist that lived a couple of centuries profiting from the benefits that came with the stone. At the end of the book, the stone was destroyed for the greater good of humanity.
But that is not what would have happened if George Starkey, a real alchemist who lived in the seventieth century managed to create the Philosopher’s Stone. And Isaac Newton, who owned Starkey’s notes on creating such an object, would have probably kept it for study.
Sir Newton, who is famous for his theories regarding gravity, and the funny anecdote with the apple falling on his head, was not only interested in physics, but he was also a big fan of alchemy.
It seems that the physicist owned the manuscript of George Starkey, an alchemist that spent his entire life looking for a way to create the Philosopher’s Stone, an object of great desire in the seventieth century.
His prize possession was kept a secret until it was purchased by the Foundation of Chemical Heritage in February. This Philadelphia organization has analyzed the manuscript and concluded that it indeed dates back from the seventieth century, and it belonged to the once famous alchemist.
Until the eighteenth century when the field of chemistry was completely revolutionized, alchemy was a real science. And the search for the Philosopher’s Stone is what Harry Potter and Isaac Newton have in common.
But in the 1700s, the chemists managed to turn their field around. They labeled alchemy as a side branch, an attempt at the obscure arts, something more similar to the pursuit of magic than actual science. In return, they turned their attention to the study of chemical elements and reactions, setting down the basis of modern-day chemistry.
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