A lost alchemy recipe handwritten by legendary physicist Isaac Newton has been rediscovered.
The manuscript was hidden away in a private collection, and was bought last February by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The recipe gives instruction on how to make a substance called “sophick mercury,” which is said to be a main ingredient for the Philosopher's Stone. Fans of Harry Potter would be familiar with this object, and just like in the book and the movies. Legends state that it is said to possess the ability to extend's one life and achieve immortality. It also has the power to turn base metal into gold.
Newton who is considered to be the father of physics is known to have dabbled in alchemy which many modern scientists has dismissed as pseudo-science. Newton is said to have written more than one million words on alchemy through his life.
Much of what he has written was lost and dispersed when his alma mater, Cambridge University chose not to archive his recipes on 1888. They were eventually sold in auction in 1936 for the price of nine thousand British pounds.
The manuscripts then ended up in private collections.
“For many, many years, Newton’s alchemy was considered untouchable,” says historian William Newman of Indiana University.
That is the reason why Newton's Alchemy papers have not been thoroughly studied before.
The "sophick mercury" recipe was copied by Newton from notes by a 17th century alchemist famously known as Eireanus Philalethes (which translates to “the peaceful lover of truth”) whose real name is George Starkey.
Newton never did fully decoded Starkey's work, nor did he achieve the result he intended. His work and procedure on the lab and his collaboration with other Alchemists,may have influenced his work on optics-the physics of light. This would lead him to discover that white light is a mixture of various colors.
“Alchemists were the first to realize that compounds could be broken down into their constituent parts and then recombined. Newton then applied that to white light, which he deconstructed into constituent colors and then recombined,” Newman said
And he notes ,“That’s something Newton got from alchemy.”.