01 November 2007 at 10:01
by Misha Norland
The origins of physical chemistry, so I was taught at my Hampstead primary school, lay in the murky antiquity of Alchemy. I was given my first insight into the manner of mediaeval thought by my school teacher, who simultaneously ridiculed it. She taught that alchemists tried to turn lead into gold, and wasn't this a silly idea? For me, it was an imaginal star-burst—"they tried to turn lead into gold!" My teacher also spoke about the Four Elements and the Element of Ether which, she explained, interpermeates all matter, and which the mediaevals actually thought of as a mediating spiritual flux. That theory was also ridiculed.
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