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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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Extracting Our Venus

Extracting Our Venus

(p.347) Sixteen Extracting Our Venus
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses Newton's attempt to purify his antimonial sublimate of copper vitriol from excess antimony and sal ammoniac to obtain a material that he calls “our Venus.” The project of “extracting our Venus” can be tracked from its origins up until February 1695/6, the last date in CU Add. 3973. It is possible that Newton's goal was to arrive not merely at a salt of copper in the modern sense, where the metal combines with other elements to yield a compound, but rather in the traditional alchemical sense whereby the copper is decomposed and its internal, constituent salt is released. Whether “our Venus” meant an internal constituent of the metal copper, or rather a compound of the metal, Newton spent years of effort trying to arrive at the substance in pure form.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, alchemy, antimonial sublimate, copper vitriol, antimony, sal ammoniac, our Venus

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