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Newton’s Recipe to Turn Lead into Gold


Like Albert Einstein and other brilliant minds, Isaac Newton is remembered only for his achievements. A gentle mantle of oblivion has covered failed theories and experiments. And so Newton’s biographers and admirers have consistently turned a blind eye to the one million words he devoted to alchemy. We all know that alchemy is dismissed as a pseudoscience. Learned men considered it the preserve of “fools and knaves.” Yet perhaps the genius was a common man, too. He may have wanted to become rich. He copied the recipe of a 17th century American alchemist, George Starkey, who went by the penname of Eireanus Philalethes (“the peaceful lover of truth”). But as Cambridge University, Newton’s alma mater, had auctioned off his manuscripts in 1936, they had scattered into private collections. A Philadelphia non-profit has bought Newton’s copy of Starkey’s formula and will digitalize it. Scientists will examine more closely Newton’s musings on alchemy. Perhaps, it will help us understand if it shaped his thoughts that revealed the workings of the Universe. To turn lead into gold, you first needed to prepare a key component to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone, which had the power to turn base metals into precious ones. Combine one part Fiery Dragon, some Doves of Diana, and at least seven Eagles of mercury. Then you would need sophick mercury, which you would get by repeatedly distilling mercury and then heating it with gold. Newton could not make it work. But who knows? Maybe you strike gold. Beware: Verb Company and Future Imperfect shall not be held liable if the experiment fails. But if you make it, you can keep it all.


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