In “The Alchemical Revolution,” Sara Reardon (Science 20 May 2011) tells us,
A growing number of science historians hold that alchemists—”chymists” is their preferred, less-loaded term—were serious scientists who kept careful lab notes and followed the scientific method as well as any modern researcher and are testing that hypothesis by recreating their experiments. If the alchemists saw what they claimed, these researchers say, then it’s high time for an “alchemical revolution” to restore them to scientific respectability. In the view of these advocates, alchemists have been unjustly ranked with witches and mountebank performers, when in fact they were educated men with limited tools for inquiring into the nature of the universe. (You have to pay to read the article.)
This follows on the grudging recent admission at Nature that Christians have funded and done modern science for most of its history. An admission made only for the purpose of trashing Christians for refusal to believe in the latest episode of Darwin Follies – for the same reason as we always knew that Fred Flintstone is a fictional character. Oh, and Christians’ refusal to believe in crackpot cosmologies, too.
(Note: Al-chemy includes the Arabic “al-”, meaning “the chemistry” or “the art of mixing metals.” Many early contributors to chemistry were Arabic-speaking Muslims. They should feel some pride in recovering their history too.)