Alchemy and porcelain


The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), though critical of alchemy, compared alchemists to the father who, on his deathbed, told his lazy sons of a sum of money hidden underground in his garden. After his death they began digging in hopes of finding the treasure. They found none, because (as the father knew) there was none, yet they enriched themselves with a large crop that their inadvertant plowing made possible. A cute little story, but this book is the story of Bacon’s anecdote come true. In trying to create gold alchemically, a brilliant proto-chemist invents porcelain. Or rather, re-invents it, since the Chinese had been doing just fine making porcelain for hundreds of years before.