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Princeton University Library Author Talk: "The Experimental Fire" with Jennifer Rampling

Join Princeton University Library for an author talk featuring Jennifer Rampling, author of "The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700" and curator of the "Through a Glass Darkly: Alchemy and the Ripley Scrolls 1400-1700" exhibition in the Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library.

In medieval and early modern Europe, the practice of alchemy promised extraordinary physical transformations. Who would not be amazed to see base metals turned into silver and gold, hard iron into soft water, and deadly poison into elixirs that could heal the human body? To defend such claims, alchemists turned to the past, scouring ancient books for evidence of a lost alchemical heritage and seeking to translate their secret language and obscure imagery into replicable, practical effects.

Tracing the development of alchemy in England over 400 years, from the beginning of the 14th century to the end of the 17th century, Jennifer Rampling illuminates the role of alchemical reading and experimental practice in the broader context of national and scientific history. Using new manuscript sources, she shows how practitioners like George Ripley, John Dee, and Edward Kelley, as well as many previously unknown alchemists, devised new practical approaches to alchemy while seeking the support of English monarchs. By reconstructing their alchemical ideas, practices, and disputes, Rampling reveals how English alchemy was continually reinvented over the space of four centuries, resulting in changes to the science itself. In so doing, "The Experimental Fire" bridges the intellectual history of chemistry and the wider worlds of early modern patronage, medicine, and science.

The talk will be hosted on Zoom webinar. Registration is required. 


Photo credit: Sameer Khan, Fotobuddy LLC

Wednesday, April 27, 2022
3:00pm - 4:00pm