The introduction of alchemy to the west came
in the 8th Century when the Arabs brought it to Spain. From
here it quickly spread to the rest of Europe.
The Arabian belief was that metals are made
up of mercury and sulfur in varying proportions. Gold was
seen as the perfect metal and all others were less perfect,
an idea popular among western alchemists. It was a very popular
idea indeed, that these lower metals could be transmuted into
gold by means of a substance known as the Philosophers Stone.
The Stone is also believed to be able to
confer immortality, the Chinese name for it being the Pill
In Europe, alchemy led to the discovery of
manufacture of amalgams and advances in many other chemical
processes and the apparatus required for them. Eventually,
by the 16th Century, the alchemists in Europe had separated
into two groups.
The first group focussed on the discovery
of new compounds and their reactions - leading to what is
now the science of chemistry.
The second continued to look at the more
spiritual, metaphysical side of alchemy, continuing the search
for immortality and the transmutation of base metals into
This led to the modern day idea of alchemy.