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Alchemist's Laboratoy
Public DomainAlchemist's Laboratoy - Credit: Heinrich Khunrath
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.