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History
In Our Time
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Thursday 9.00-9.45am
repeated 9.30pm
The big ideas which form the intellectual agenda of our age are illuminated by some of the best minds. Melvyn Bragg and three guests investigate the history of ideas and debate their application in modern life.

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PRESENTER
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
"I'm fascinated by the fact that we live in a time when so many people are doing fantastic work, and thinking in areas which it's not remotely possible for me to keep up with & and these people are prepared to talk about it. They're prepared to come on In Our Time and other programmes on Radio 4 and try and talk to the rest of us ..."
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 24 February 2005
Alchemy
ALCHEMY

At the end of the 16th century, the German alchemist Heinrich Khunrath wrote: "Darkness will appear on the face of the Abyss; Night, Saturn and the Antimony of the Sages will appear; blackness, and the raven's head of the alchemists, and all the colours of the world, will appear at the hour of conjunction; the rainbow also, and the peacock's tail. Finally, after the matter has passed from ashen-coloured to white and yellow, you will see the Philosopher's Stone".

The language, which sounds fantastical, is cryptic, encoded, symbolic and secretive. It is worth bearing in mind that Isaac Newton wrote more manuscripts on alchemy than on anything else and Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, described himself as an alchemist.

What was the essence of alchemy, its history and legacy? And how much more was it than a rapacious desire to turn base metals into gold?

Contributors

Peter Forshaw, Lecturer in Renaissance Philosophies at Birkbeck, University of London

Lauren Kassell
, Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

Stephen Pumfrey, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science at the University of Lancaster

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In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
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