Hello, all my lovely followers! Long time no see! Sorry for the prolonged lack of original posts, but I’ve been crazy busy at my new job as Library Technician at Smithsonian Libraries (@smithsonianlibraries)! I’m working primarily at the Cullman Library in the Natural History Museum, which houses the Smithsonian’s special collections relating to natural history, although I’ve also spent some time at the Dibner Library, which is home to special collections relating to the physical sciences.
Although I’ve only been there for two months, I’ve had the opportunity to do and see some amazing things! From a shelving unit for miniature books to a well-loved 13th century Armenian manuscript (MSS 1675B), the Libraries are truly full of wonders great and small. One of my favorites is the volvelle, or rotating calculator, found in a 16th century alchemical manuscript (MSS 867B)– I just love it when books are interactive! Expect more from that one in the future.
People believed she was a sorceress for her ability to “cause the moon to disappear” - to predict lunar eclipses.
Mary The Jewess, 1st-3rd century Europe, Alchemist/Inventor
The first “true alchemist” of the Western world is credited with inventing various apparatuses to distill, collect, and refine chemicals. She may have discovered hydrochloric acid.
Merit-Ptah, 2700 BcE Egypt, Physician
She may be the first named woman in science. In ancient Egypt, she held the title of “Chief Physician” and her likeness is painted in the Valley of Kings.
Hypatia, 3rd-4th century Byzantium, Mathematician/Astronomer
The head of a Neoplatonic school at Alexandria, she “made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time.” She was caught between a feud between two prominent leaders and murdered by a Christian mob.
Agnodice, 4th century BCE Athens, Physician/Midwife
Athenian leaders banned women from working in medicine after discovering midwives were being performing abortions. She cut her hair to continue her practice and later left for Egypt to continue her training.
As per request, here are some images from when I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles of a bunch of old grimoires and alchemy books they had on display there.
Unfortunately this was a different museum and display than the Bucket Rain Conjuring story I posted. that trip they did not allow us to take pictures in the museum and we had to leave phones in lockers. But hopefully these cool old books will suffice anyways!
Alchemists harnessed the forces of the physical world by recreating natural phenomena. Actions such as burning, boiling, or dissolving could affect the basic substance of plants and minerals. Alchemists duplicated, directed, switched on, and switched off these chemical reactions in their laboratories.
The tools and methods used for science could dissolve the chemical bonds forged by nature, filter out impurities, and create new purified chemical compounds more useful to human needs. Such scientific operations involved complex and painstaking technical procedures.
Eventually, the number of alchemical processes were gradually standardized to correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac because celestial movements were accurate tools for measuring time.
The Art of Alchemy is open at the Getty Research Institute through February 12, 2017. It’s one of three alchemy-themed shows on view this year.
Instead of writing, from antiquity there had been talking story– in legend and oratory, poetry and song: the divine word, alive and well in Sāmoa– the first piece of solid ground– words formed into poetry, alive and well across millenia.
Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard, from alchemies of distance