Your PDF has successfully downloaded.

You may be interested in finding more content on these topics:


You are not currently logged in.

Access JSTOR through your library or other institution:


Log in through your institution.

Journal Article

Alchemy as Studies of Life and Matter: Reconsidering the Place of Vitalism in Early Modern Chymistry

Ku-ming (Kevin) Chang
Vol. 102, No. 2 (June 2011), pp. 322-329
DOI: 10.1086/660141
Stable URL:
Page Count: 8
Were these topics helpful?
See something inaccurate? Let us know!

Select the topics that are inaccurate.

  • Download PDF
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
We're having trouble loading this content. Download PDF instead.


ABSTRACT Early modern alchemy studied both matter and life, much like today's life sciences. What material life is and how it comes about intrigued alchemists. Many found the answer by assuming a vital principle that served as the source and cause of life. Recent literature has presented important cases in which vitalist formulations incorporated corpuscular or mechanical elements that were characteristic of the New Science and other cases in which vitalist thinking influenced important figures of the Scientific Revolution. Not merely speculative, vitalist ideas also motivated chymical practice. The unity of life science and material science that is found in many formulations of Renaissance alchemy disintegrated in Georg Ernst Stahl's version of post-Cartesian vitalism.