Alchemy

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Alchemy, derived from the Arabic word al-kimia (الكيمياء, ALA-LC: al-kīmiyā’), is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold, investigating the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties.[1] The practical aspect of alchemy can be viewed as a protoscience, having generated the basics of modern inorganic chemistry, namely concerning procedures, equipment and the identification and use of many current substances.

Alchemy has been practiced in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), India, Persia (modern Iran), China, Japan, Korea, the classical Greco-Roman world, the medieval Islamic world, and then medieval Europe up to the 20th and 21st centuries, in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2,500 years.

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Etymology

The word alchemy derives from the Old French alquimie, which is from the Medieval Latin alchimia, and which is in turn from the Arabic al-kimia (الكيمياء). This term itself is derived from the Ancient Greek chemeia (χημεία) with the addition of the Arabic definite article al- (الـ‎).[2] It used to be thought that the ancient Greek word was originally derived in its turn from "Chemia" (Χημία),[3] a version of the Egyptian name for Egypt, which was itself based on the Ancient Egyptian word kēme (hieroglyphic Khmi, black earth, as opposed to desert sand).[2] Some now think that the word originally derived from chumeia (χυμεία) meaning "mixture" and referring to pharmaceutical chemistry.[4] With the later rise of alchemy in Alexandria, the word may have been mistakenly thought by ancient writers to derive from Χημία, and thus became spelled as χημεία, and the original meaning forgotten.[5] The question of the etymology of the word alchemy is still open, and recent research indicates that the Egyptian derivation of the word may be valid. [6]

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