COOL IMAGES: Alchemy and Old Science

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Science  28 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5419, pp. 1427d
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5419.1427d

From herb garden to distillation flasks to sickroom, this 16th century engraving captures the allure of medicinal chemistry in Renaissance times. The image is one of hundreds of historical pictures of labs, apparatuses, and scientists, mostly from before 1850, posted at the Edgar Fahs Smith Collection Web site at the University of Pennsylvania. Portraits include a youngish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), 17th century chemist Robert Boyle wearing a long curly wig, and Dmitri Mendelyeev (1834–1907) at the lab bench. Also posted are original texts of a 1598 “Treatise on Metallurgy” and John French's 1651 “Art of Distillation,” which has methods on everything from making cordials to fractionating tree sap, perhaps: In French's words, “How to rectifie [sic] all stinking, thick black Oils that are made by a Retort, and to take away their stink.”

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