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ISLAMIC Alchemy

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« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2007, 09:49:39 am »








                                                M U S L I M   A L C H E M I S T S





The Arabs appeared in history in the seventh century. Alchemy had by then gone through a long path. The first contacts took place in Egypt, in Alexandria, where the traditions went back several centuries before Christianity.

Muslim alchemy was derived from the Greek. The frequency with which Greek authors are quoted, the numerous theories that are common to both Greek and Arabic alchemy, and the large number of Arab technical terms clearly taken over from Hellenic treatises (e.g. hayuli, atisyus, athalia, iksir, qambar,S) prove beyond doubt the affiliation of Muslim and Greek alchemy. The transmission was made partly through direct contact in Egypt, partly through the medium of Syrian Christian translators, and partly by way of Persia. There are unmistakable traces of Persian influence, manifested distinctly by linguistic affinities in technical names and usage and in names of minerals. These traces are sufficiently well marked to render it probable that Persia was, indeed, one of the main channels through which alchemy came to Islam; and it is not without interest to note that many of the principal Muslim alchemists were Persians.

It has already been observed that Chinese alchemy has so much in common with Greek and Arabic alchemy as to afford support to the hypothesis that all three had a common origin; and there is some reason to believe that the Chinese practiced a kind of alchemy long before the days of Islam. The remote origins of Arabic alchemy are therefore still to some extent uncertain, but there is very little to recommend the suggestion that the Arabs received any direct introduction to alchemy from the Chinese. Whatever may be the cause of the similarity between Chinese, Greek and Muslim alchemical ideas.
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« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2007, 09:52:32 am »








JABIR IBN HAIYAN (721-815)



The greatest chemist of Islam has long been familiar to western readers under the name of Geber, which is the medieval rendering of the Arabic Jabir. Since the work of Paul Kraus we are on more solid ground with Jabir ibn Haiyan.

He is Abu Musa Jabir ibn Haiyan al-Azdl (al-Tusl, al-~artusl, al-Harram meaning that he was a Sabian?; al-Sufi). Flourished mostly in kufa. The most famous Arabic' alchemist; the alchemist Geberu of the Middle Ages. He may be the author of a book on the astrolabe, but his fame rests on his alchemical writings preserved in Arabic: the 'Book of the Kingdom', the 'Little Book of the Balances', the 'Book of Mercury', the 'Book of Concentration', the 'Book of Eastern Mercury', and others. According to the treatises already translated (by Berthelot), his alchemical doctrines were very anthropomorphic and animistic. But other treatises (not yet available in translation) show him in a better light. We find in them remarkably sound views on methods of chemical research; a theory on the geologic formation of metals; the so-called sulphur-mercury theory of metals (the six metals differ essentially because of different proportions of sulphur and mercury in them); preparation of various substances (e.g., basic lead carbonate; arsenic and antimony from their sulphides). Jabir deals also with various applications, e.g., refinement of metals, preparation of steel, dyeing of cloth and leather, varnishes to water-proof cloth and protect iron, use of manganese dioxide in glass making, use of iron pyrites for writing in gold, distillation of vinegar to concentrate acetic acid. He observed the imponderability of magnetic force.
It is possible that some of the facts mentioned in the Latin works, ascribed to Geber and dating from the twelfth century and later, must also be placed to Jabir's credit. It is impossible to reach definite conclusions until all the Arabic writings ascribed to Jabir have been properly edited and discussed. It is only then that we shall be able to measure the full extent of his contributions, but even on the slender basis of our present knowledge, Jabir appears already as a very great personality, one of the greatest in mediaeval science. Jabir admits the Aristotelian theory about the composition of matter-earth, water, air, fire-but he develops it along a different path. First, there are four elementary qualities, or natures: heat, cold, dryness, humidity. When they get together with a substance they form compounds of the first degree, i.e. hot, cold, dry, wet. The union of two of these qualities gives


hot + dry + substance -------------- fire
hot + wet + substance -------------- air
cold + wet + substance ------------- water
cold + dry + substance ------------- earth


One of his chief contributions to the theory of chemistry lies in his views upon the constitution of metals. To understand his conceptions properly, we must hark back to Aristotle, whose philosophy of nature was universally accepted in its main principles by the scientists of Islam. According to Aristotle, it still be remembered, all substances are composed of the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth, which are themselves interconvertible. The immediate constituents of minerals and metals are two exhalations, one an 'earthy smoke' and the other a watery vapour'; the former consists of small particles of earth on the way to becoming fire, while the latter consists of small particles of water on the way to becoming air. Neither exhalation is ever entirely free from some admixture of the other. Stones and other minerals are formed when the two exhalations become imprisoned in the earth, the dry or smoky exhalation predominating; metals are formed under similar circumstances if the watery exhalation predominates.

Jabir accepted this theory of the constitution of metals, but appears to have regarded it as too indefinite to explain observed facts or to afford a guide to practical methods of transmutation. He therefore modified it in such a fashion as to make it less vague, and the theory he suggested survived, with some alterations and additions, until the beginning of modern chemistry in the eighteenth century. The two exhalations, he believed, when imprisoned in the bowels of the earth, are not immediately changed into minerals or metals, but undergo an intermediate conversion. The dry or smoky exhalation is converted into sulphur and the watery one into mercury, and it is only by the subsequent combination of sulphur and mercury that metals are formed. The reason of the existence of different varieties of metals is that the sulphur and mercury are not always pure, and that they do not always combine in the same proportion. If they are perfectly pure and if, also, they combine in the most complete natural equilibrium, then the product is the most perfect of metals, namely gold. Defects in purity or proportion, or both, result in the formation of silver, lead, tin, iron or copper, but since these metals are essentially composed of the same constituents as gold, the accidents of combination may be removed by suitable treatment. Such treatment is the object of alchemy.

The idea that the transmutation of the metals was possible had the excellent merit of provoking incessant experiment, but unfortunately the alchemists were always prone to theorize to an inordinate extent. Moreover, at Alexandria, the mystical beliefs of the Gnostics and the Neo-Platonists - however admirable and attractive in themselves - had a very detrimental effect upon experimental science. Alchemy thus became less and less a matter for experimental research and more and more the subject of ineffable speculation and superstitious practice, not to say fraudulent deception.

The practical applications of chemistry were not neglected. Jabir describes processes for the preparation of steel and the refinement of other metals, for dyeing cloth and leather, for making varnishes to waterproof cloth and to protect iron, for the preparation of hair-dyes and so on. He gives a recipe for making an illuminating ink for manuscripts from 'golden' marcasite, to replace the much more expensive one made from gold itself, and he mentions the use of manganese dioxide in glass-making. He knew how to concentrate acetic acid by the distillation of vinegar, and was also acquainted with citric acid and other organic substances.
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« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2007, 09:56:06 am »








Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al-Razi (866-925)



After the death of Jabir, nearly a century elapsed before Islam produced a worthy successor. History records a few alchemists in the interval, but it is only with the Persian chemist and physician Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al-Razi (known to the West as Rhazes) that Jabir's great example is successfully followed.

According to one of his biographers, Razi was born in A.D. 866 at Ray, an ancient town on the southern slopes of the Elburz Range that skirts the south of the Caspian Sea. In his early youth he devoted himself to the study of music, literature, philosophy, manichaeism, magic and alchemy.

After his first visit to Baghdad, when he was at least 30 years of age, that he seriously took up the study of medicine under the well-known doctor Ali ibn Sahl (a Jewish convert to Islam, belonging to the famous medical school of Tabaristan or Hyrcania). Razi showed such skill in the subject that he quickly surpassed his master, and wrote no fewer than a hundred medical books. He also composed 33 treatises on natural science (exclusive of alchemy), on mathematics and astronomy, and more than 45 on philosophy, logic and theology. On alchemy, in addition to his Compendium of Tweltne Treatises and Book of Secrets, he wrote about a dozen other books, two of which were refutations of works by other authors in which the possibility of alchemy had been attacked.

As to the man himself, one of the inhabitants of Ray who recollected Razi described him as a man with a large square head. He used to take his seat in the lecture room, with his own pupils next him, and the pupils of these men behind them, and, behind these again, other pupils. Whenever any one came with a question, he used first to ask the back row. If they could answer, he went away; but, if not, he used to pass on to the others, and they, in their turn, if they could give a correct answer, tried to satisfy him; otherwise Razi would speak on the subject himself. He was a liberal and generous man, and so compassionate to the poor and sick that he used to distribute alms to them freely and even nurse them himself. He was always reading or copying, and "I never visited him" (said the narrator) "without finding him at work on either a rough or a fair copy". His eyes were always watering 'on account of his excessive consumption of beans', and he became blind towards the end of his life. He died in his native town on 26 October, A.D, 925, at the age of 60 years and 2 months.

Razi is of exceptional importance in the history of chemistry, since in his books we find for the first time a systematic classification of carefully observed and verified facts regarding chemical substances, reactions and apparatus, described in language almost entirely free from mysticism and ambiguity.
Razi's scheme of classification of the substances used in chemistry shows such a sound, it is the first time that we find such a systematic classification. The list of these products as mentioned in Sirr al-asrar book is as follows:


A. The earthly substances (al-'aqaqtr al-turabiyya) Mineral substances

1. The SPIRITS (al-arwah)
Mercury, sat ammoniac, arsenic sulphate (orpiment and realgar), sulphur

2. The BODIES (al-ajsad)
Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, tin, Kharsind

3. The STONES (al-ahjar)
Pyrites (marqashita), iron oxide (daws), Zinc oxide (tutiya), azurite, malachite, turquoise, haematite, arsenic oxide, lead sulphate (kohl), mica and asbestos, gypsum, glass

4. The VITRIOLS (al-zajat)
Black, alums (al-shubub), white (qalqadzs), green (qalqand), yellow (qulqutar), red

5. BORAX (al-bawariq)

6. The SALTS (al-amlah)

B. Vegetable substances
Rarely used, they are mainly employed by physicians.

C. Animal substances
Hair, scalp, brain, bile, blood, milk, urine, eggs, horn, shell


To these 'natural substances' we need to add a certain number of artificially obtained substances; al-Razl mentions litharge, lead oxide, verdigris, copper oxide, zinc oxide, cinnabar, caustic soda, a solution of polysulphur of calcium and other alloys.

The insistence of al-Razl in promoting research work in the laboratory brought its fruits in pharmacy.
Razi gives also a list of the apparatus used in chemistry. This consists of two classes: (i) instruments used for melting metals, and (ii) those used for the manipulation of substances generally. In the first class were included the following:


Blacksmith's hearth
Bellows
Crucible
Descensory
Ladle
Tongs
Shears
Hammer or Pestle
File
Semi-cylindrical iron mould


The second class included:


Crucible         Flasks
Alembic            Phials
Receiving flask         Cars
Aludel            Cauldron
Beakers            Sand-bath
Glass cups         Water-bath
Shallow iron pan      Large oven
Sieve            Hair-cloth
Heating-lamps         Filter of linen
Cylindrical stove      Potter's Kiln
Chafing-dish          Mortar
Flat stone mortar       Stone roller
Round mold          Glass funnel


It will be observed that the list was comprehensive, but Razi completes the subject by giving details of making composite pieces of apparatus, and in general provides the same kind of information as is to be found nowadays in manuals of laboratory arts.

Like Jabir, Razi was a firm believer in the possibility of transmutation, and Stapleton describes his scheme of procedure approximately as follows:

The first stage: consisted in the cleansing and purification of the substances employed, by means of distillation, calcination, amalgamation, sublimation and other processes. Having freed the crude materials from their impurities,

The next stage: was to reduce them to an easily fusible condition. This was done by an operation known as aeration, that resulted in a product which readily melted, without any evolution of fumes, when dropped upon a heated metal plate.

The third stage: was to bring the 'berated' products to a further state of disintegration by the process of solution. The solutions of different substances, suitably chosen in proportion to the amount of 'bodies', 'spirits', &c., they were supposed to possess, were brought together by the process of combination.

Finally: the combined solutions underwent the process of coagulation or solidification, the product which it was hoped would result, being the Elixir. This, as previously explained, was a substance of which a small quantity, when projected upon a larger quantity of baser metal, would convert the latter into silver or gold.

From a general study of his chemical works, Stapleton says that hence forward Razi must be accepted as one of the most remarkable seekers after knowledge that the world has ever seen - not only 'unique in his age and unequaled in his time', but without a peer until modern science began to dawn in Europe with Galileo and Robert Boyle. The evidence of his passion for objective truth that is furnished by his chemical writings, as well as the genius shown by the wide range of books he wrote on other subjects, force us to the conclusion that - with the possible exception of his acknowledged master, Jabir - Razi was the most noteworthy intellectual follower of the Greek philosophers of the seventh to fourth centuries B.C. that mankind produced for 1900 years after the death of Aristotle. His supreme merit lay in his rejection of magical and astrological practices, and adherence to nothing that could not be proved, by experiment and test, to be actual fact.
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« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2007, 09:57:54 am »








Later Arab Alchemists



No account of chemistry in Islam would be even approximately complete which omitted to mention four of Arab Alchemists: Abu'l-Qasim of Iraq, Aidamir al-Jildaki, Al-Tughra‘i and Al-Majriti.

The first of these men lived in the thirteenth century, probably at Cairo, and has left us several books which, apart from their intrinsic interest, serve to indicate the trend of alchemical thought and practice in Islam after the process of transmission to Europe had been in action for some considerable time. It is very obvious that in Abu'l-Qasim's time the reaction of European scientific thought upon Islam had not yet begun, and the contrast between the two intellectual worlds could not be better exemplified than in the persons of Abu'l-Qasim and his contemporary Roger Bacon. The driving force of Islam was beginning to grow weak, while the new stimulus that Arabic learning had given to Europe had resulted in a scientific renaissance which was to reach its full development not long afterwards. Abu'l-Qasim's outlook is that of his predecessors of three or four centuries earlier, and although there was unquestionably some advance in empirical practical chemistry, the theoretical views expressed are supported by quotations not merely from Jabir but from the still earlier alchemists of the Alexandrian school. Abu'l-Qasim himself seems to have been a good experimentalist and a comparatively logical thinker, but his general views often represent a retrograde movement upon those of Jabir.
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« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2007, 09:58:59 am »








Aidamir al-Jildaki (?-1342)



Who also lived for part of his life at Cairo, is of importance chiefly on account of his extensive and deep knowledge of Muslim chemical literature. He apparently spent the major portion of his existence in collecting and explaining all the books upon alchemy that he could discover, and labours are now beginning to receive their reward; for writings form an indispensable source of a great deal of our knowledge of chemistry and chemists in Islam. In a few instances it is possible to observe that he must have carried out experimental work himself, but for the most part his books are commentaries upon the works of earlier writers. Thus his great End of the Search is a commentary upon Abu'l-Qasim's book Knowledge acquired concerning the Cultivation of Gold, and although his explanations are not seldom more obscure than the passages they are designed to illuminate, he had the admirable habit of making innumerable and lengthy quotations from Khalid, Jabir, Razi and many other authors, and his books are thus a rich storehouse of information upon Muslim chemistry. It is therefore necessary to inquire into the question whether his quotations and historical facts are authentic, and whether his reliability is to be accepted or doubted. Fortunately, it often happens that a book from which he quotes is extant, and his quotations in such cases can of course be checked. A test conducted on these lines has shown that Jildaki was conscientious and although he does not always come through unscathed, his general trustworthiness can be safely assumed. He thus deserves the warmest thanks of all who are interested in the history of chemistry.
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« Reply #20 on: August 11, 2007, 10:00:11 am »







AL - TUGHRA'I
(1063-1120)

Mu'aiyid al-Din al-Tughra'i.

Masabih al-Hikma wa Mafatih al-Rahma.




This alchemist, who was a civil servant under the Seljuks Malik-shah and Muhammad, has great importance as a poet and a writer. His Lamiyyat al'ajam is very famous. He was executed in 1121.

In his Nihaya, Jaldakl tries to appraise the scientific value of al-Tughra'l: he was the most important alchemist since Jabir; his style has become perfect but his books can only be read by those who are already advanced in the great art. In his Kitab al-Masabt,h wa-l-maf tech (The Lamps and the Keys), he reports the teaching of the Ancients; he is more theoretical than practical. He declares in his poem that he has inherited his alchemy knowledge from Hermes. According to Jaldakl, his most important book on alchemy is MafAti,h al-rahma wa masabl,h al-,hikma.


*************************************************************************************



AL - TUGHRA'I




From Wikipedia:

Mu'ayyad al-Din Abu Isma‘il al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Tughra'i was an 11th-12th century Persian physician.

Mu'ayyad al-Din al-Tughra'i, was born in Isfahan in 1061CE, and was an important alchemist, poet, and administrative secretary (therefore the name Tughra'i'). He ultimately became the second most senior official (after the vizier) in the civil administration of the Seljuki empire.

He was, however, executed in 1121CE having been accused (unjustifiably, according to most historians) of being an apostate.

He was a well-known and prolific writer on Astrology and Alchemy, and many of his poems (diwan) are preserved today as well. In the field of Alchemy, al-Tughra'i is best known for his large compendium titled Mafatih al-rahmah wa-masabih al-hikmah, which incorporated extensive extracts from earlier Arabic alchemical writings, as well as Arabic translations from Zosimos of Panopolis old alchemy treatises written in Greek, which were until 1995 erroneously attributed to unknown alchemists by mistakes and inconsistencies in the transliteration and transcription of his name into Arabic[1]

In 1112CE, he also composed Kitab Haqa'iq al-istishhad, a rebuttal of a refutation of alchemy written by Avicenna.



See also

List of Iranian scientists
List of Muslim scientists



 References

^ Prof. Dr. Hassan S. El Khadem. 1996. A Translation of a Zosimos' Text in an Arabic Alchemy Book. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences. Volume 84. Number 3, Pages 168-178. September 1996



For his life, see:

F.C. de Blois, 'al-Tughra'i' in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, ed. by H.A.R. Gibbs, B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat, C. Bosworth et al., 11 vols. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960-2002), vol. 10, pp 599-600.
For a list of his alchemical writings, see:

Manfred Ullmann, Die Natur- und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung I, Erg?nzungsband VI, Abschnitt 2 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972), pp 229-231 and 252-3.



For details about Zosimos of Panopolis translations, see: Prof. Dr. Hassan S. El Khadem. 1996. A Translation of a Zosimos' Text in an Arabic Alchemy Book. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences. Volume 84. Number 3, pp 168-178. September 1996

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Tughrai"

Category: Iranian scientists




**************************************************************************************









                                                                 




Mu'aiyid al-Din al-Tughra'i.

Masabih al-Hikma wa Mafatih al-Rahma.



(The Lanterns of Wisdom and the Keys of Mercy).



Page 1 - Page 2
Seventeenth century.
Near East Section,
African and Middle Eastern Division (126.1)

 
Al-Tughra'i (1061-1121 or 1122) was an Arab poet, politician, soldier and scientist. He served during the reign of the Saldjuk Sultans and rose to become a grand vizier, but was eventually executed. Despite a very full and active life he wrote numerous poetic and scientific works. This is a page from one of only four copies known to be in existence today. It describes various instruments that weigh, measure, and mix metals and chemical compounds. Shown here are scales for weighing the four known elements at the time -- air, water, fire and earth.


http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/world/earth.html
 
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« Reply #21 on: August 11, 2007, 10:01:37 am »

                                     




Al-Majriti ( -1007)



In Andalusia, under the Caliphat of al-Hakam II (961-76) flourished scholars in all the domains, including alchemy. One of these was Maslama b. Ahmad, from Cordoba, better known under the name al-Majriti because he lived for a long time in Madrid. He assimilated Muslim sciences in the Arab Orient where he seems to have had close contacts with the originators of the famous Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa'. He brought to Spain a new edition of this encyclopaedia. He is known in particular for his astronomical work: a revision of the Persian astronomical tables in Arabic chronology, a commentary on the Planispherium of Ptolemy and a treatise on the astrolabe. The last two were translated quite early into Latin and were very successful .

An important alchemy work, Rutbat' al-Hakzm wa mudkhal al-tathm (Rank of the Wise Man and Isagoge oh! Teaching), is attributed to him, and an astrological work called Chayat al-Haklm. The last was translated into Spanish in 1256 by order of Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile and Leon (from 1252 to 1284), and later it became popular in Latin under the name of Picatrix. Rabelais in Pantagruel mentions it when he speaks of the "Reverend Father of Devil Picatrix, rector of the diabolic faculty in Toledo". The attribution of the book to al-Majriti was considered false as the internal critique shows that this work could only have been written after 1009, while al-Majriti died in 1007.

Holmyard redeveloped an interest in Rutbat al-Haklm. The author first expresses his views on the way an aspiring alchemist should be educated: by study mathematics, books from Euclid and Ptolemy, natural sciences with Aristotle or Apollonius of Tyana; then he needs to acquire a manual ability and practice precise observation, reasoning about chemical substances and their reactions; in his research he needs to follow the laws of nature, like a physician: a physician diagnoses the disease and administers the medicine, but it is Nature who acts.
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« Reply #22 on: August 11, 2007, 10:04:59 am »







                             G E N E R A L   R E V I E W   O F   M U S L I M   A L C H E M Y




Until the time of Jabir, Alchemy was 'without form and void'. The solid technical knowledge of the craftsmen was lost in the vapourings of occultists, and if there were any men with a more reasonable view of chemical science, its aims, its objects and its methods, we find no record of them. By the efforts of Jabir and Razi, the two Muslim chemical geniuses, much of the vast accretion of unbridled speculation was cleared away, and chemistry first began to take shape as a true science. Experimental fact was at last informed with the beginnings of reasonable theory, while on the practical side a workmanlike scheme of classification was evolved and a divide range of substances was carefully investigated and systematically characterized. The common laboratory methods of distillation, sublimation, calcination, reduction, solution and crystallization were improved and their general purposes well understood. The refinement of metals, by cupellation and in other ways, was brought to a high degree of perfection, and the careful assay of gold and silver was accompanied by extraordinary accuracy in methods of weighing and in the determination of specific gravity.

On the theoretical side, the idea that 'base' metals could be transmuted into gold or silver overshadowed every other. The generally accepted belief was that elixirs could be prepared which, by an action we should now describe as catalytic, would convert practically unlimited amounts of lead, mercury, tin, copper, or even iron into silver first and then into gold. There were alternative theories as to the means whereby transmutation could be effected, but as we may more conveniently study these in their later developments a mere reference to them in passing may be sufficient at the moment. The philosophical justification for the almost universal credence in the possibility of transmutation is to be found ultimately in the Aristotelian conception of the Four Elements and proximately in Jabir's theory that all metals are composed of sulphur and mercury. Its practical justification lay in the elegant manner in which it explained numerous phenomena and stimulated unceasing research.

Chemistry, in the work of the great chemists from Jabir to the time of Avicenna, was concerned chiefly not so much with alchemy but with concrete technical matters such as the development of apparatus, the preparations of, and the study of their reactions. The development of chemistry in the period, although almost entirely empirical, was of great importance in that a new high level was attained in the accumulation of chemical data. The previous period of such great growth had taken place long before 3000-500 B.C., in Mesopotamia. In many ways, Muslim chemistry grew in the same manner as it did in Mesopotamia with the difference that the Arabs were more careful in their larger number of experiments, made careful notations of their laboratory results, and developed their laboratory apparatus to a high point of perfection. This was the real beginning of scientific method in the science of chemistry. Not only did the Muslims organize their scientific knowledge as did ancient Mesopotamians before them, but they used experiments to gain scientific data. Because of this accent on experiment in later times, there is much more practical discussion of the categories of matter in the Muslim literature than may be found in the Mesopotamian literature where appearances were of prime consideration.

Alongside experiment, logical speculation took its place in chemical science as an important adjunct. Although Muslim theorizing was grossly inadequate, it was, however, carried out by important chemists in an effort to explain results of laboratory work and not necessarily to add to the so-called 'natures'. This was a distinct Muslim advancement over their Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian predecessors.
References:


1. G. Sarton, "Introduction to the history of science," Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, 1927

2. E.J. Holmyard, "Makers of Chemistry," Oxford, at The Clarendon Press, 1939

3. E.Farber ,"Great Chemists ", Interscience Publishers,1961

4. E.Von-Meyer, History of Chemistry, 1906 5. J. M. Stillman, Story of Alchemy And Early Chemistry

6. J. R. Partington, A Short History of Chemistry, 1939.


http://www.levity.com/alchemy/islam01.html
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« Reply #23 on: August 12, 2007, 07:36:30 am »







Islamic alchemy


http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/~alchemy/islamic_alchemy.html


Islamic alchemy evolved rapidly with the mingling of cultures and the Near East began absorbing Greek knowledge. Philosophers already in the region lacked sufficient knowledge to meet their needs. This assumption of knowledge was even more rapid during the fifth century BCE when the learned sect of Nestorian Christians were expelled from Constantinople and set up a school at Edessa in northern Syria. Then being expelled again by the Greek Emperor they fled into Mesopotamia finally around 500 established the famous Persian medical school at Jundai-Shapur. They had started translating Greeks works into Syriac and were followed in the nest century by the Monophysite Christians, also expelled, who continued translating Greek texts.

However, during the fifth and sixth centuries this rapid growth of knowledge was slowed when the Arab states and tribes came under Muslim influence. Islamic leaders imposed the religion on every region they conquered including Asia Minor, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Africa, and Spain. This hostility toward infidel learning continued till after 750 when under Abbasid culiphs of Baghdad the people developed a thirst for knowledge again. The Abbsaids also sought philosophies that would eliminate the need of imams thus Greek works of philosophy, mathematics, science could not be translated fast enough.

When trying to determine the author of ancient treaties on most subjects including alchemy a dubious phenomenon occurs, the author usually remains a mystery. This is because everyone signed a well-known name to their work to give it more authenticity. This would be like someone today signing their work as Roger Bacon, William Shakespeare, or William Faulkner. This was why work may be attributed to men that never wrote it.

One of the first named recognized in Islamic alchemy is Abu Musa Jabir, born Hayyan and supposedly a pupil of the sixth Imam-Islamic spiritual and secular leader-Ja'far b. Muhammad al-Sadiq, who is reported to have numerous treatises, mostly on alchemy but also on medicine, astronomy, astrology, mathematics, music, and philosophy, all subjects would constitute an encyclopedia. Although it is thought that Ja'far wrote many treatises accredited to him, it is doubtful, if not impossible, that he alone wrote on all of these subjects, mostly likely others did under his name; remember there were no copyright laws then. And, some of what was considered science then would currently be called magic because in that era there was little difference between science and magic.
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« Reply #24 on: August 12, 2007, 07:37:57 am »








What is known for certain from assaying the alchemical work attributed to Jabir is that he or who ever wrote it was familiar with Greek alchemy theory. He divided substances into three categories:

Spirits: volatile bodies such as camphor, sal ammoniac, mercury, arsenic, and sulphur.
Metallic bodies: the metals.
Bodies: non-volatile, pulverizable solids such as substances other than "spirits" or metallic bodies.

As can be seen, this resembles the Greek classification. The Greeks believed metals were comprised of a body, soul, and spirit. In fact, Jabir's categories could have came straight from Aristotle whose "moist" and "dry" vapors now become vapors of mercury and sulphur.

Like the Greeks, Jabir spoke of different sulpurs, at the time sulphur was thought to be a fusible, volatile, combustible body, such as yellow sulphur, white sulphur, green sulphur, black sulphur, and so on. But the sulphur referred to in modern chemistry also was known. Jabir's varieties of sulpurs might have been compounds containing sulphur, which some miners call iron pyrites. The notion that metals contained mercury and sulphur-the latter being an inflammable principle (before oxygen was discovered)-remained a part of alchemy and chemistry even into the 18th century. The idea that this inflammable principle-sulphur-was in metals, if not all bodies, was the progenitor of the notion of phlogiston.

Jabir shared Aristotle's conception of the four elements, fire, air, water, earth, but developed it along different lines. He states the first essence or natures of the four elementary qualities were hotness, coldness, dryness, and moistness. When these natures unite with the substance they form a compound of the first degree namely hot, cold, dry, moist. The union of two compounds produces an element: fire (hot + dry + substance); air (hot + moist + substance); water (cold + moist + substance); and earth (cold + dry + substance). He said all metals had two external natures and two internal. The diagram below shows how he viewed gold and silver:
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« Reply #25 on: August 12, 2007, 07:39:38 am »








 
 Outer Qualities
 Inner Qualities

 GOLD
 Hot--moist
 Cold--dry

 SILVER
 Cold--dry
Hot--moist


As shown, in order to change silver into gold its nature, quality composition, had to be reversed. This reversal of qualities, according to Jabir, was necessary for transmutation to occur. The idea of altering metallic qualities did not seem impossible at the time for the concept was widely accepted in medicine.

It can be seen the Islamic alchemists, like their Greek counterparts, were barrowing the ancient Greek physician Galen's methods. For example, if a patient suffered a disease in which he had too much heat element, he would be given, as a remedy, medicine containing a cold element.

Jabir and follow Arabian alchemists viewed base metals similarly as Galen and his followers had viewed patients, imperfect. Base metals were considered imperfect, being defective in purity, and particularly in proportion, that is not being naturally balanced. This resulted in the formation of silver, lead, tin, or copper. But, it was reasoned, since the base metals were of the same composition as gold, though not as equally proportioned, they could be perfected by equally proportioning them. Jabir sought to do this by elixirs and hoped to develop the supreme elixir.

He invented his method of balance to proportionally balance the metallic qualities which contained a strange numbering system. The Greeks denoted the variation of qualities, hotness and coldness, moistness and dryness, by degrees though they lacked the means to measure them quantitatively. Jabir elaborated on the Greek system by assigning a "value" to each substance. For example, if gold was 1, then the elixir was 5. Each treatment was noted by a special fraction; a sublimation equaled 1/50, a fusion, 1/200, thus the formula read:

(Gold) 1 X (Fusion) 1/200 X 1000 = (Elixir) 5
(Computerized as [1 * .005 * 1000 = 5])
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« Reply #26 on: August 12, 2007, 07:41:11 am »








The conclusion was that after one thousand fusions gold should be converted into an elixir. The conclusion of this method of balance (mizan) proved to be very doubtful, to say the least, but it was a first step toward quantitative measurement which became so important in chemistry.

It might be added that some experiments attributed to Jabir seemed very dubious too. For example, in one, he wanted to remove moisture from water. After distilling and redistilling ordinary water 700 times he got white, brilliant solidifies like salt which he said was the pure element, but is simply the quality of coldness residing in first matter. Like processes applied to other distilled products supposedly rendered the warm, the moist, and the dry elements. Were these experiments ever verified? There is a great deal of uncertainty about their verification; on the other hand, there seems to be more certainty that they were not, who is going to redistill water, or any other product, 700 times again? Another explanation, perhaps a more plausible one, for the lack of validity is that during retesting some accident occurred; a cracked still, a furnace collapse or some other incident stopped the procedure.

Even through none of his alchemical works have been translated directly from Arabic, but summaries of them indicated Rhases, or Razi, was a practical scientist. Although he did not go along with Jabir's elaborate calculated "balance" theory, Rhases believed basically that all substances were composed of the four elements and transmutation was possible. He also shared Jabir's assumption that the proximate constituents of metals were mercury and sulphur (or an inflammable oil), but sometimes suggests a third constituent of a salty nature--an idea occurring most frequently in later alchemical literature.

In his Book of the Secret of Secrets he divides chemical substances into well-marked classes: "spirits," metallic bodies, stones, vitriols, boraxes, and salts. He further describes necessary equipment needed, the various chemical preparation including various "poisonous" waters, the processes of calcination, sublimation, dissolution, and combustion; and finally in obscure terms the production of elixirs of gold and silver. Although his book is not always clearly understood, it is free of deliberate concealments, allegory and rhetoric as in many texts of the era.

A survey of Rhases' work indicates that he was much more interested in practical chemistry than theoretical alchemy and probably this why his Book of the Secret of Secrets foreshadowed the chemistry laboratory manual. Although the procedures describe in it are frequently difficult to interpret they indicate experiments that he probably undertook himself. He in turn begun to revolutionize alchemical thinking in that he demonstrated that practice was better than just unsupported hypotheses; it was better to composed treatises with workable laboratory experiments than untried studies.
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« Reply #27 on: August 12, 2007, 07:42:45 am »








Rhases initially gave a systematic classification of alchemical substances. For the first time substances were divided into the categories of animal, vegetable, and mineral.

Another noted chemist is Abu'l-Qasim al'Iraqi, probably in the 13th century wrote a work called Knowledge Acquired Concerning the Cultivation of Gold, English translation by E. J. Holmyard. His alchemical theory is similar to Jabir's. He accepted the Aristotelian theory for the origin of metals and believed the various metals were imperfection of gold, and their properties could be changed with red and white elixir in order to transform them into gold or silver.

As proof for this transformation he cited the then known fact that lead heat for a long time in a fire yields small amounts of silver. Unknown to the Arabians then was that small amounts of silver compounds are present in all lead ore. Once again this illustrates alchemists could only work with knowledge which they had at the time.

Al-Iraqi's theory was excellent, but when it came to instructions as to actually performing experiments he reverted to dark sayings, allegories, and quotations of alchemical sages. This indicated al-Iraqi had little or no practical experience.

Abu Ali ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna, was an Islamic genius referred to as the "Prince of Physicians." he was a boy prodigy: he needed advanced tuition after being taught the Koran and Arabian poetry; then he mastered arithmetic, Euclid and logic, and medicine was among the other subjects he privately applied himself to and by the age of sixteen he was teaching physicians new forms of treatments.

He advanced to hold high medical and government positions, on one occasion being grand vizier and prime minister. He wrote over one hundred books, some being quite short, one medicine, philosophy, and science; his famous "Canon of Medicine" contained over a million words; in the pharmacological section he mentioned no fewer than 760 drugs. For several hundred years he shared with Rhases the distinction of being an authority in medicine, a subject for which there was no appeal.
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« Reply #28 on: August 12, 2007, 07:44:29 am »







Another interest which he shared with Rhases was music. One might wonder how an acute such as Avicenna's could be interested in alchemy. A plausible answer is that his contemporaries believed it was possible to transmute metals, and many held it had successfully been accomplished while a few believing it to be theoretically possible were skeptical. Avicenna's views on the constitution of metals closely resemble Jabir's. However, Avicenna was no skeptic for he clearly stated that the concept of transmutation was impossible. He saw no way to split up one metallic combination to make another. His negative opinions did not go unanswered. Vizier Al-Tughra'i, a better poet than alchemist, answered his criticism after carefully studying it and pointed out Avicenna's views were inconsistent with those he had expressed elsewhere in the same work. Avicenna's negative views, however, did little to detour those interested in alchemy, they just continued their work.

The Islamic alchemists took what the knowledge inherited from the Greeks, added to it, and passed it onto their Western counterparts. But not all of this knowledge strictly concerned alchemy. A bit of knowledge of this type is The Emerald Tablet or the Tabula Smaragdina, which is ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, or the Egyptian god Thoth, god of mathematics and science. Early versions were dogmatic to Arabic alchemy since they claim to express the summary of the principle changes in Nature and therefore serve as the basis of the alchemical doctrine.

Another notable Islamic alchemist was Geber, famous Prince and Philosopher, or at least a number of treatises attributed to him, the most important Summa Perfectionis. This work was the most important source of medieval chemistry. A survey of these treatises, especially this one, shows the author, or authors, were true believers that transmutation of metals was possible. The most important points in these works are the advocacy of the sulphur-mercury of metals, the initial descriptions of chemical methods, and the initial descriptions of analysis, the stating of numerous of ways of testing metals to tell whether they were genuine gold. The work also gave the vital knowledge of mineral acids to the Western world. The descriptions and recipes were clearly stated free of allegories as were the diagrams also provided. But, this textbook material did not enable the reader to make gold.

Beginning with the 12th through the 16th centuries the Arabs were clearly adding there own knowledge to that which they adopted from the Greeks and were far in advance of the Western counterparts. They knew the preparation of sal ammoniac, ammonia, the mineral acids, and borax. They were familiar with the method of distillation and other chemical operations. They were making certain chemical preparations while the idea of transmutation by a medicine or stone and the lore of the four elements still awaited their Western neighbors. A.G.H.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sources:
Holmyard, E.J. "Islamic Alchemy" Alchemy. New York. Dower Publications. 1990. pp. 80-104
Taylor, F. Sherwood. "Alchemists of Islam" Alchemists, Founders of Modern Chemistry. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 76-94


http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/~alchemy/islamic_alchemy.html
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« Reply #29 on: June 30, 2009, 09:41:36 am »



               

               
Jabir ibn Hayyan sometimes is considered to be the 'father of chemistry'. He applied an experimental scientific approach to alchemy.

15th c. European portrait of "Geber"



http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198203/science-the.islamic.legacy.htm
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