Indiana University science historian William Newman built a 17th century laboratory to recreate the work of alchemists. According to Newman, these early makers had a method to their madness, resulting in a "A solid body of repeated and repeatable observations of laboratory results." Discover sent a photographer to Newman's lab for a feature in the new issue. From a teaser on Discover's blog:
Here we have Professor Newman holding a beaker of concentrated nitric acid (aqua fortis) dissolving copper into a green solution. At his left foot is a large glass bottle of nitrogen dioxide in the process of combining with water vapor to form more nitric acid, according to the recipe supplied by Isaac Newton.
Newman is the co-author with Lawrence M. Principe of a book titled Alchemy Tried In The Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry. It sounds fascinating, as do Newman's other books on alchemy! From the Alchemy Tried In The Fire book description:
Using, as their guide, the previously misunderstood interactions between Robert Boyle, widely known as "the father of chemistry," and George Starkey, an alchemist and the most prominent American scientific writer before Benjamin Franklin as their guide, Newman and Principe reveal the hitherto hidden laboratory operations of a famous alchemist and argue that many of the principles and practices characteristic of modern chemistry derive from alchemy. By analyzing Starkey's extraordinary laboratory notebooks, the authors show how this American "chymist" translated the wildly figurative writings of traditional alchemy into quantitative, carefully reasoned laboratory practice–and then encoded his own work in allegorical, secretive treatises under the name of Eirenaeus Philalethes.
"Garage Alchemy Is Not for the Weak of Stomach" (Discover)
Alchemy Tried In The Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry (Amazon)