Roger Bacon

Doctor Mirabilis and Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon… father of science? Have a listen for his take on the philosopher’s stone and alchemical processes.

Roger Bacon, O.F.M. (c. 1214–1294) (scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, meaning “wonderful teacher”)

didn’t really study nature through empirical methods like Al-Ghazali and Albertus Magnus.. more through book (scholastic tradition)

inspired by the works of Aristotle and later Arabic works

Biography

Ilchester in Somerset, England, possibly in 1213 or 1214 in a monastery

He became a master at Oxford, lecturing on Aristotle. then university ofParis then joined the Franciscan Order and quit teaching

As a monk he wasn’t supposed to publish without the order’s concent.. but luckily Pope Clement IV was his buddy and ordered him to write to him and advise him on philosophy etc (possibly alchemy and astrology)

but when the pope died he was imprisoned, it’s not 100% clear why. But possibly attraction to contemporary prophecies,[29]or interest in certain astrological doctrines.. his personality may have played a role.

Science

Optics calendar (he criticized the julian calendar) he strongly advized natural sciences to be taught in universities and to experimentally test theories

Works

He criticized many of his contemporaries, including Albertus Magnus.

Before we go into this, I’ll put a little disclaimer here, that many works attributed to him, he did not write. Especially concerning alchemy. Since he did mention it, others have grasped at that and filled in the missing parts of his picture.

So let’s start with what he certainly did write:

The Opus Majus (Latin for “Greater Work”) is the most important work of Roger Bacon. It was written in Medieval Latin, at the request of Pope Clement IV, to explain the work that Bacon had undertaken. The 840-page treatise ranges over all aspects of natural science, from grammar and logic to mathematics, physics, and philosophy… to the size and distance of plantets etc.

review of alchemy and the manufacture of gunpowder and of the positions and sizes of the celestial bodies, and anticipates later inventions, such as microscopes, telescopes, spectacles, flying machines, hydraulics and steam ships.

The cryptic Voynich manuscript (which we mentioned as being in Rudolf II’s collection) has been attributed to Bacon by various sources, including by its first recorded owner, in a book drafted by William Romaine Newbold… but it probably wasn’t actually written by him.

Alchemy

A work of from a hazy date and possibly not even by Bacon is the Epistola de Secretis Operibus Artis et Naturae, et de Nullitate Magiae (meaning Letter on the Secret Workings of Art and Nature, and on the Vanity of Magic), sometimes alternatively entitled De Mirabili Potestate Artis et Naturae (On the Wonderful Powers of Art and Nature). This treatise dismisses magical practices like necromancy, and contains most of the alchemical work attributed to Bacon, chiefly a formula for philosopher’s stone, and perhaps one for gunpowder.[48] It also contains a number of passages about hypothetical flying machines and (what we today call) submarines, attributing their first use to Alexander the Great.

alchemical manual Speculum Alchemiae, which was translated into English as The Mirror of Alchimy in 1597. It is a short treatise about the composition and origin of metals, espousing “conventional” (with respect to the period) Arabian theories of mercury and sulfur as the constituents of metals, and containing vague allusions to transmutation. probably also not really written by him.

Radix Mundi

(from the alchemist reader by stanton j linden again) Origin of metals: 5 elements in unison -> grown with sulphur and mercury in the “pores and veins of the mountains” -> vapor of cloud is produced. -> thousand years later = metal and other minerals.

but you can quicken this by making the tincture.. a thick water that when returned to the earth becomes fixed.. so you can be faster than nature.

mercury: “stone and no stone” it swallows other things and is swallowed by other things. It’s the basis of the tincture/elixir/philospoher’s stone Rhasis: ”such a thing may be made of it which exceedeth the highest perfection of nature”

Our stone is natural or mineral vegetable and animal. because it’s generated in the mines, mother or womb of metal. it springs and grows like a vegetable and aboutds with life like an animal

purification of metal:

what tools: glass, transparent, etc. hermetically sealed so no fumes escape

sol mercury, the white and red. “marry the white man to the red woman” etc… moist and dry fire (not too hot..)

decoct, commix, conjoyn, to sublime, to bake grind and congeal, to make equal putrefie make white then red.

check your work:

half out of the fire so you can see. forty day check (black crust from the mercury) which is called: the fires, the sould, a cloud the ravens-head, a coal, our oyl, aqua viae, tincture of redness, shadow of the sun, black brass, water of sulphur…. and more

so the point is.. when it’s all done, you can add some pure gold. Let that ferment and when you pour the gold out, this can be done indefinitely… you’ve just created gold. up to 10 000 times more than you started with… but it’s exponential in a way.

now he talks about fraudster alchemists that ‘in vain’ do all their distillations, sublimations, conjunctions, calcinations, dissolutions, cointritions, etc.

oh and: if you don’t understand what I just said, that’s because God has hidden the meaning from you. I guess you’re just not ready. It’s not the philosopher’s, it’s you. He’s a franciscan. You need to be right with god, before you can understand the gold recipe.

Gunpowder

Bacon is often considered the first European to describe a mixture containing the essential ingredients of gunpowder.

Fiction

he pops up in fiction a lot, which is where he gets today’s reputation from. He’s mentioned in ‘the name of the rose’ for instance. Often as the first true scientist… I wouldn’t go that far. His chemical processes have very little we would recognize as being in any way scientific.

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