The death sentence of alchemy came for a more important than the arrival of the first experiments

The death sentence of alchemy came for a more important than the arrival of the first experiments

When in 1718, Étienne Francçois Geoffroy , son of a pharmacist who held the chair of chemistry at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, published the "Table of the different relationships observed between different substances", he did so in a context where chemists were already trying to disassociate himself from alchemical thought.

The coup de grace was given by experimental knowledge but, above all, by clear information from those experiments in an open society .

Experimental knowledge

It is often thought that the disappearance of alchemy from the scientific field took place through experimentation without further ado. But it was not like that. Nor was it the development of cultured networks dedicated to new knowledge.


What condemned alchemy to the loft of pseudosciences was, as David Wootton explains in his book The Invention of Science :

The insistence that the experiments should be reported openly in publications that presented a clear explanation of what had occurred, and that they should then be replicated, preferably in front of independent witnesses.

Alchemists had always done just the opposite: they had dedicated themselves to secret learning, convinced that only a few were fit to have such exclusive knowledge.

In other words : a closed society with regard to knowledge became an open, transparent society.

Corollary : We don’t really expect to find reliable science before scientific communities began to take shape in the 1640s.

Empedocles Four Elements Representation of the four elements of Empedocles in an edition of De rerum natura by Tommaso Ferrando (1472).

The demise of alchemy provides additional evidence, if any additional evidence is needed, that what our modern science points to is not the performance of experiments (alchemists did a great deal of experimentation), but the formation of a capable critical community. to evaluate the findings and replicate the results.

This idea can perfectly be linked to the four basic tips that we must always remember to identify fairly quickly when we are dealing with a pseudoscience or an established science, as you can see in the following video.