Turning one thing into another has been a fascination of peoples for a very long time. In The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M. Principe reveals what alchemy is, how it works, and how it's changed throughout history.
In Egypt a formula was perfected to make silver-toned substances look exactly like gold. Because they had no way of measuring the properties of the metal back then, the people believed that these metals had actually turned into gold. Archimedes, much later on, discovered that the weight and water displacement of an object could determine if an object was completely made of gold.
The formulas of "making gold" and many other processes were encrypted by their authors with puzzles containing both pictures and words. People have attempted to replicate these processes over the years, most without success.
Alchemy just wasn't the pursuit of endless gold, though. There was also a goal of finding everlasting life; in fact, the efforts of alchemists to find the elixir of life led to the founding of chemistry, which we now use today to create life-saving medicines.
Over lifetimes alchemy has been viewed in many different manners. While some look at it as a goal of attaining physical wealth or health, others have reinterpreted it to be a way to decrypt our very being. Others have seen it as a way to reach full human potential or even contact God.
Alchemy is a fascinating topic all in itself, and it's even more fascinating when its many offshoots are considered. Principe's amazing research will satiate the curious and entice the studious.
A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery by Lyndy Abraham
The Secret Teachings of All of the Ages Manly P. Hall
The Real Sorceror's Stone History Channel