SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Alchemy. Historical artwork by the German artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) titled Melencolia I. It represents one of the four temperaments or humours, and it is thought that its title (ending in I) implies that Durer intended to draw the other three. Many of the artifacts seen, such as the mathematical "magic" square (upper right), balance (upper centre) and geometric shapes (far & lower left) are associated with alchemy. Alchemy was the pseudo-scientific predecessor to chemistry, which among other ideas is best known for its practitioners' hunt for the Philosopher's Stone, which would impart eternal life and the ability to turn base metals into gold.
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