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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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The Doves of Diana

The Doves of Diana

First Attempts

(p.181) Nine The Doves of Diana
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

Beginning with Newton's very early interpretations of the Polish alchemist Michael Sendivogius in the manuscripts Babson 925 and Keynes 19, this chapter shows he initially thought the secret of chrysopoeia to be attainable by means of two ingredients alone, namely stibnite or crude antimony and lead. Much of his focus on antimony stems from his recent reading of the 1669 text by Philalethes, Secrets Reveal'd, which describes the use of that material in fairly clear terminology. The great significance that Newton idiosyncratically attaches to the metal lead in this early phase, however, has gone unnoticed by previous scholars. His subsequent exposure to additional alchemical texts soon made him understand that he had oversimplified matters. Other metals were also involved in the processes of Philalethes, especially copper. By deepening his understanding of subterranean mineral generation, Newton believed he would be in a better position to replicate nature's processes of growth and transformation in the laboratory.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, Michael Sendivogius, alchemy, antimony, lead, Philalethes

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