Professor Kenneth Knoespel of the Georgia Institute of Technology says alchemy, as Newton practiced it in the 17th and 18th centuries, was research into the nature of chemical substances and processes -- primarily the transmutation of materials from one type of matter to another.
Newton and others conducted experiments, but also incorporated philosophical thought in their attempts to uncover the mysteries of the physical universe.
"Newton's extensive work on universal history (which presents human history as a coherent unit governed by certain immutable principles) provides an essential setting for linking his work on alchemy and his work heading England's mint in the 1690s," said Knoespel. "It is not at all farfetched to think of history as a kind of alchemical process that looks to the creation of value and wealth."
Knoespel presented a lecture entitled "Newton's alchemical work and the creation of economic value" Monday in San Francisco, during the American Chemical Society's 232nd national meeting.