Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature

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9780226577128: Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature
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"In Promethean Ambitions", William R. Newman uses alchemy as a means to discuss the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned - and often negative - responses to their efforts. Newman also shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles - with vocal supporters and even louder critics - that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that he charts here between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today. "Promethean Ambitions" ably imbues a millennium-old scientific and ethical debate with modern relevance.

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Review:

"With close attention to historical and textual detail that is never less than engaging, Newman unpacks the historical accidents and political machinations that led to alchemy's marginalization, bringing sympathy, wit, and imagination to his account." - Simon Ings, New Scientist "Newman chooses the fascinating topic of alchemy as his case study in the long history of human efforts to breach the barriers between nature and human artifice....A thought-provoking book." - Iwan Rhys Morus, Science "Newman argues [that] the methods and ideas of modern science, including concepts of experimentation, far from breaking with alchemical researches, evolved out of them....Newman, a clear and graceful writer, keeps his goal in view. He is an initiate - tapping, testing, and transmuting - until something different, still called alchemy, gradually takes shape." - Edward Rothstein, New York Times"

About the Author:

William R. Newman is the Ruth N. Halls Professor in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University. He is the author of Gehennical Fire and, with Lawrence M. Principe, Alchemy Tried in the Fire, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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9780226575247: Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature

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ISBN 10:  0226575241 ISBN 13:  9780226575247
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, 2005
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