Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature

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9780226575247: Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature

In Promethean Ambitions, William R. Newman uses alchemy as a means to discuss the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned—and often negative—responses to their efforts. Newman also shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles—with vocal supporters and even louder critics—that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that he charts here between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today. Promethean Ambitions ably imbues a millennium-old scientific and ethical debate with modern relevance.

"With close attention to historical and textual detail that is never less than engaging, Newman unpacks the historical accidents and political machinations that led to alchemy's marginalization, bringing sympathy, wit and imagination to his account."—Simon Ings, New Scientist

"Newman chooses the fascinating topic of alchemy as his case study in the long history of human efforts to breach the barriers between nature and human artifice. . . . A thought-provoking book."—Iwan Rhys Morus, Science

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From the Inside Flap:

In an age when the nature of reality is complicated daily by advances in bioengineering, cloning, and artificial intelligence, it is easy to forget that the ever-evolving boundary between nature and technology has long been a source of ethical and scientific concern: modern anxieties about the possibility of artificial life and the dangers of tinkering with nature more generally were shared by opponents of alchemy long before genetic science delivered us a cloned sheep named Dolly.

In Promethean Ambitions, William R. Newman ambitiously uses alchemy to investigate the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned—and often negative—responses to their efforts. By the thirteenth century, Newman argues, alchemy had become a benchmark for determining the abilities of both men and demons, representing the epitome of creative power in the natural world. Newman frames the art-nature debate by contrasting the supposed transmutational power of alchemy with the merely representational abilities of the pictorial and plastic arts—a dispute which found artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Bernard Palissy attacking alchemy as an irreligious fraud. The later assertion by the Paracelsian school that one could make an artificial human being—the homunculus—led to further disparagement of alchemy, but as Newman shows, the immense power over nature promised by the field contributed directly to the technological apologetics of Francis Bacon and his followers. By the mid-seventeenth century, the famous "father of modern chemistry," Robert Boyle, was employing the arguments of medieval alchemists to support the identity of naturally occurring substances with those manufactured by "chymical" means.

In using history to highlight the art-nature debate, Newman here shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles, with vocal supporters and even louder critics, that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that Newman charts between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today, and he ably links contemporary issues to alchemical debates on the natural versus the artificial.

About the Author:

William R. Newman is the Ruth N. Halls Professor in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University. He is the author of Gehennical Fire and, with Lawrence M. Principe, Alchemy Tried in the Fire, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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William R. Newman
Editorial: The University of Chicago Press, United States (2005)
ISBN 10: 0226575241 ISBN 13: 9780226575247
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Descripción The University of Chicago Press, United States, 2005. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. New edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. In Promethean Ambitions , William R. Newman uses alchemy as a means to discuss the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned - and often negative - responses to their efforts. Newman also shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles - with vocal supporters and even louder critics - that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that he charts here between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today. Promethean Ambitions ably imbues a millennium-old scientific and ethical debate with modern relevance. Nº de ref. de la librería AAZ9780226575247

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William R. Newman
Editorial: The University of Chicago Press, United States (2005)
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Descripción The University of Chicago Press, United States, 2005. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. New edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. In Promethean Ambitions , William R. Newman uses alchemy as a means to discuss the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned - and often negative - responses to their efforts. Newman also shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles - with vocal supporters and even louder critics - that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that he charts here between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today. Promethean Ambitions ably imbues a millennium-old scientific and ethical debate with modern relevance. Nº de ref. de la librería AAZ9780226575247

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Descripción The University of Chicago Press. Paperback. Estado de conservación: new. BRAND NEW, Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature (New edition), William R. Newman, "In Promethean Ambitions", William R. Newman uses alchemy as a means to discuss the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned - and often negative - responses to their efforts. Newman also shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles - with vocal supporters and even louder critics - that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that he charts here between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today. "Promethean Ambitions" ably imbues a millennium-old scientific and ethical debate with modern relevance. Nº de ref. de la librería B9780226575247

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Descripción The University of Chicago Press, 2005. Estado de conservación: New. In this book, the author uses alchemy as a means to discuss the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, he examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the responses to their efforts. This book imbues a millennium-old scientific and ethical debate with modern relevance. Num Pages: 352 pages, 8 colour plates, 20 halftones. BIC Classification: PN. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational. Dimension: 151 x 228 x 20. Weight in Grams: 504. . 2005. New ed. Paperback. . . . . . Nº de ref. de la librería V9780226575247

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