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Liberating the Green Lion: Unsolved Mysteries of Isaac Newton’s Alchemical Practice

February 2, 2015 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

William Royall Newman (Indiana University / Huntington) Despite the fact that Isaac Newton’s alchemy has been a matter of common knowledge since the famous Sotheby’s auction of 1936 when the bulk of his chymical manuscripts were sold, we still have a very weak understanding of precisely what Newton was trying to accomplish in the laboratory. He left behind two extensive laboratory notebooks that are found in the Portsmouth Collection at the University of Cambridge, but the experimental portions of these notebooks consist almost entirely of laboratory protocols without any indication of Newton’s goals for the extensive operations found there. These experimental collections stand in striking contrast to Newton’s reading notes and epitomes, which form the largest component of the million or so words that he wrote on alchemy. In the current scholarly climate, with its emphasis on the importance of material culture, making sense of Newton’s alchemy by actually doing it, and not just reading about it, should p…


February 2, 2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm