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Newton the Alchemist$
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William Newman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174877

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174877.001.0001

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Problems of Authority and Language in Newton’s Chymistry

Problems of Authority and Language in Newton’s Chymistry

The Concept of the Adept

(p.20) Two Problems of Authority and Language in Newton’s Chymistry
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces a host of related linguistic and interpretive issues that emerge from Newton's self-identification as a would-be adept. From the beginning of his serious chymical studies in the 1660s, he seems to have been confident that he belonged among the elite sons of wisdom who had been chosen to receive the philosophers' stone as a donum dei, a gift of the Creator himself. The most striking thing about his chymical corpus is the remarkable contrast between the years of elaborate speculation that went into his decipherment of alchemical sources and the extraordinary rigor of his chrysopoetic experiments. Despite his private acceptance of extravagant “authorities” such as Edwardus Generosus and the author of Manna, Newton remained wedded to the most stringent methods of the “experimental philosophy” and refused to believe that he had succeeded at the aurific art until experiment might tell him otherwise.

Keywords:   chymical studies, Isaac Newton, alchemy, experimental philosophy, philosophers' stone, adept

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