A 17th-century alchemy manuscript has been bought at an auction in Pasadena, California. Of course, apart from being a small slice of history, there's nothing overly fascinating about this discovery is there?
However, the author of the manuscript is none other than Isaac Newton and the content of the manuscript is a recipe for the mythical philosophers stone...
Of course, many of you will be familiar with the philosophers stone thanks to J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter novels. In J.K. Rowling's debut novel, first published in 1997, a young Harry Potter attempts to stop the reemergence of the dark lord Voldemort back into the wizarding world. In the novel and film, Voldemort possesses Professor Quirrell in an attempt to steal the stone from Hogwarts and grant him immortality.
In the Harry Potter universe, the philosophers stone is an extremely powerful magical object. With the ability to turn any metal into gold, the stone was also able to produce the Elixir of Life. This led to the stone being of the most sought after objects within the wizarding world. The only problem was that the only known maker of the Philosopher's Stone, Nicolas Flamel, was dead and had left the stone in the care of his friend Albus Dumbledore.
Yet, well before the teen wizard burst into popular culture, alchemists were well aware of the stone and it's alleged magical properties.
Between the 17th and 18th Centuries, the philosophers stone was the most sought after substance in the alchemy world. Like the Harry Potter universe, alchemists also believed the stone to possess magical properties. It was alleged that the philosophers stone was able to transform lead into gold, and help humans achieve immortality.
The philosophers stone was an object of desire well before the 17th Century, with mentions of the stone in writing being found as far back as 300 AD. In fact, some alchemical writers even theorise that the stone was first provided by God to Adam in the garden of Eden and then passed down through biblical patriarchs. This in turn provided them with long lasting lives, documented throughout the Old Testament.
The manuscript itself, written in Latin, is a translation by Newton containing instructions for making "philosophic" mercury. It was believed that making philosophic mercury was one of the first steps in the process for making the mythical philosopher's stone.
Purchased by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the manuscript was originally written by an American chemist named George Starkey. Writing under the pseudonym Eirenaeus Philalethes, Starkey moved to England in 1650 and began working with Newtons contemporaries. Although best known for his study of gravity and laws of motion, it is estimated that Isaac Newton wrote over a million words of alchemical notes, making this discovery all the more incredible.
The manuscript will now be added to The Chymistry of Isaac Newton project, an online repository to share with a wider audience.
Who knows... Perhaps J.K. Rowling knows something we don't? Could the philosophers stone be real? Has the recipe finally been found? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!