Alchemy was a subject of no small controversy in the Middle Ages. To some scholastics, alchemy seemed to arrogate the power of divinity itself in its claim that man could replicate the products of nature by means of art; others viewed alchemy as a pure technology, unworthy of inclusion in a curriculum devoted to the study of
Summa perfectionis of Pseudo-Geber, written around the end of the 13th century as a defense of the art, became 'the Bible of the medieval alchemists,'and was still being used as late as the 17th century. The present work contains a critical edition, annotated translation, and commentary of the
The historical treatment of atomism and the mechanical philosophy largely neglects what I call "chymical atomism," namely a type of pre-Daltonian corpuscular matter theory that postulated particles of matter which were operationally indivisible. From the Middle Ages onwards, alchemists influenced by Aristotle's Meteorology, De caelo, and De generatione et corruptione argued for the existence of robust corpuscles of matter that resisted analysis by laboratory means. As I argue in the present paper, this alchemical tradition entered the works of Daniel Sennert and Robert Boyle, and became the common property of seventeenth-century chymists. Through Boyle, G.E. Stahl, and other chymists, the operational atomism of the alchemists was even transmitted to Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, where it became the basis of his claim that elements are simply "the final limit that analysis reaches."