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 impassionedand often negativeresponses 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 principleswith vocal supporters and even louder criticsthat 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