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Prospero's AmericaJohn Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676$
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Walter W. Woodward

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780807833018

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807895931_woodward

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John Winthrop, Jr., and the European Alchemical Movement of the Early Seventeenth Century

John Winthrop, Jr., and the European Alchemical Movement of the Early Seventeenth Century

(p.14) One John Winthrop, Jr., and the European Alchemical Movement of the Early Seventeenth Century
Prospero's America

Walter W. Woodward

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter presents a contrast of how alchemy was viewed then and how it is viewed now. Today, most historians of science view alchemy as an important contributing factor in the development of modern chemistry and experimental science. While they are still working out the exact nature of alchemy's contributions and the complex motivations leading early modern Europeans to pursue the alchemical quest, the generally positive current attitudes of historians toward alchemy differ markedly from the views prevailing only a generation ago. Then, and for a very long time before that, alchemy was lumped together with pursuits such as astrology, geomancy, Cabala, and other occult arts and dismissed as pseudoscience. A great deal of careful work by a generation of scholars less committed than their forebears to presenting scientific development as the march of progress and a victory of reason over superstition has helped secure the newfound respect for alchemy and its practitioners, and for their role in the transformation of natural philosophy into modern science.

Keywords:   alchemy, historians of science, modern chemistry, experimental science, alchemical quest

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