The Getty Villa
Date: Thursday, October 6, 2011
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Getty Villa, Auditorium

Hermes Trismegestus
Although alchemy is better known as a phenomenon of the Middle Ages and early modern period, its origins actually lie in late antiquity. In the Hellenized Egypt of the third century AD, ancient Egyptian craft knowledge and traditions encountered Greek natural philosophy. This union resulted in the emergence of alchemy, a subject balanced between theory and practice, between material production and speculation about the hidden ways of nature.

Many of the features that would continue to characterize alchemy for the next fifteen hundred years developed in this earliest stage of the "Noble Art:" secrecy, allegory, and the goal of finding a substance or process capable of turning base metals into gold and silver. The founding figure Zosimos (about 300 AD) left behind extensive writings of which only fragments survive, yet these tantalizing bits reveal glimpses of a keen experimentalist and theorist, one who combined Aristotelian, Platonic, Gnostic, and other intellectual elements with practical work and productive endeavors.

Science historian Lawrence M. Principe of Johns Hopkins University explores these scanty fragments of text that survive, along with a few objects, that reveal a surprisingly vigorous beginning to alchemy in the waning years of the classical world.

About Lawrence M. Principe
Lawrence M. Principe is the Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in the department of history of science and technology and the department of chemistry. He earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and liberal studies at the University of Delaware, a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in history of science at Johns Hopkins University. Principe's research focuses on the history of alchemy/chemistry and the interactions of theology and science. He is the inaugural recipient of the Francis Bacon Medal for significant contributions to the history of science, and a winner of the Pfizer Prize for books in the history of science. He is currently completing a study of chemistry at the French Royal Academy of Sciences from 1666 to 1730. His books include The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and His Alchemical Quest (1998), The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (2011), and The Secrets of Alchemy, a history of alchemy for the general reader, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press in 2012.

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Planning your visit
The main gate on Pacific Coast Highway opens to ticketed guests at 6:00 p.m. The auditorium opens at 7:00 p.m., and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The galleries and Museum Store will be open before and after the lecture. A selection of light dinner fare as well as beer and wine are available for purchase at the Café until 7:30 p.m.

How to Get Here
The Getty Villa is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California, approximately 25 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for directions and parking information.