Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today is...Celebration of Life Day

January 22 is Celebration of Life Day. How are you celebrating?

The word "celebrate", meaning performed with due rites, observed with due formality, solemnly held, was first used in 1471 in Compound of Alchymy by George Ripley.

The objective of alchemy varies depending on where, when, and who was practicing the tradition. The most well-known objective is the creation of the philosopher's stone, which would possess the power of turning base metals into gold or silver and create an elixir of life.

Western alchemy is a protoscience which, though related more closely with mythology, religion, and spirituality, contributed to modern chemistry and medicine.

Numerous noted scientists were alchemists including one of the founders of modern chemistry Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Pop Innocent VIII, Nicolas Flamel (yes he was a real person, not just a character in Harry Potter), and pneumatic chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont.

The idea of a philosopher's stone can be found as far back as 300 A.D, though some claim the history of the stone goes back to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Legend has it that Albertus Magnus discovered the philosopher's stone in the 13th century. Magnus never claimed to have found the stone, though he did claim that he witnessed the transmutation of a base metal into gold. Magnus was canonized and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1931 and was made the patron saint of natural scientist in 1941.

Nicholas Flamel lived in the 14th and 15th centuries and made his living as a scrivener, manuscript-seller, and shop owner. His wife was quite wealthy from two previous marriages. At his death, in his 80s, he was wealthy and was thought to maybe have dabbled in alchemy, but his reputation was more for being an author and philanthropist.

Flamel became a legend in the first part of the 17th century when alchemical books were published claiming that he made the Philospher's Stone and achieved immortality for himself and his wife. His legendary status gained him mentions in a wide variety of pop culture from Harry Potter to Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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