Harry Potter, Nicolas Flamel, and other marvelous alchemists, lecture at CHF

April 16, 2003

PHILADELPHIA - 16 April 2003 -- The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) will present "Harry Potter, Nicolas Flamel, and Other Marvelous Alchemists" on Tuesday, 6 May, beginning at 6:00 P.M. The speaker, Lawrence M. Principe, professor of history and chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, will explain the history of alchemy behind the Harry Potter tales. The talk is also a detective story about the search for the real history of noted alchemists and the motives behind their mysterious pursuits.

Principe, a noted author and scholar of the history of alchemy, will show the strong connection between J. K. Rowling's tales and the actual history of the people who built the foundations of modern chemistry. He has pursued the study of the alchemists as single-mindedly as the alchemists themselves pursued their craft. Principe once heated mercury and silver for months in conditions similar to those used by 17th-century experimenters, just to see what they saw. There was one important difference, however; Principe used modern safety equipment, so he did not spend those months inhaling the fumes of his concoction. The madness reported among alchemists could very well have come from repeated and prolonged exposure to dangerous vapors, according to Principe.

Following the talk, CHF will offer tours of its extensive collection of alchemical paintings and prints, currently one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. The collection covers several hundred years and shows the alchemists as outsiders who were often misunderstood.

To attend, send your name and phone number to: eventregistrations@chemheritage.org. For more information call Valerie Borek at 215-925-2222, ext. 493.

The event is sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and is being organized in cooperation with the Mayor's Commission on Literacy, Philadelphia Reads, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

About Lawrence M. Principe
Lawrence Principe is a professor in the Department of History of Science, Medicine, and Technology and in the Department of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University. He is a leading specialist in the early history of chemistry, with a particular scholarly interest in European alchemy.

His first book on the subject The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and His Alchemical Quest (Princeton University Press, 1998), dealt with the father of modern chemistry's alchemical pursuits. His other works include: Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry, with William R. Newman (University of Chicago Press, 2002), and Transmutations: Alchemy in Art, with Lloyd DeWitt (Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2002).

Transmutations was researched and written while Principe was a visiting fellow at CHF. This work presents new perspectives on alchemy based on Principe's and DeWitt's examination of art depicting alchemical themes. The renowned Eddleman and Fisher Collections of such alchemical art (89 paintings in total; over 200 works on paper) are housed at CHF. The audience at Principe's talk will have an opportunity to view selections from these collections.
About the Chemical Heritage Foundation
The Chemical Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, operates a historical research library; creates and circulates traveling exhibits; develops and disseminates educational materials; publishes books and Chemical Heritage newsmagazine; offers fellowships and travel grants; conducts oral histories with leading scientists and industrialists; and hosts awards, conferences, and public events. For more information, visit www.chemheritage.org

Chemical Heritage Foundation

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