Alchemy was popularly understood to be the mystical science of turning base metals into gold, but as this book makes clear it was a much broader discipline. In fact alchemy was more like a philosophy, which incorporated ideas like transmutation, immortality and self-awareness.
The word "alchemy" stems from the Arabic "al-kimia" meaning "the art of transformation". However the earliest alchemists are believed to have worked in China or the Persian Empire. Modern inorganic chemistry owes much to early alchemical investigations.