Hocus Pocus, caricature on alchemy by Rowlandson

Hocus Pocus, caricature on alchemy by Rowlandson

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Credit: JEAN-LOUP CHARMET/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: "Hocus Pocus, or the Search for the Philosopher's Stone", after a caricature by Rowlandson of 1800. Alchemists sought to achieve perfection in cosmic existence through two processes, the 'Elixir of Life' for man and the 'Philosopher's Stone' for metals. It was thought that treating any metal with the Philosopher's Stone would turn it into gold, for which quest alchemy is famous. It was the belief of alchemists that all metals would eventually grow into gold, much as humans grow with age, but their preparations would simply speed up the process. It was only when neutron bombardment became available that transmutation of metals became remotely feasible.

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Keywords: alchemy, caricature, caricatures, historical, history of science, industry, pseudo-science

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