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Know more about Eirenaeus Philalethes | News and views about people around the world | Our first look at a New World alchemist. We look at Eirenaeus Philalethes and the person behind the name, George Starkey. He’s one of the. Philalethes, Eirenaeus: Collectanea Chymica: A Collection of Ten Several Treatises in Chymistry, Concerning The Liquor Alkahest, The Mercury of Philosophers.

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George Starkey — was a Colonial American alchemistmedical practitioner, philaletues writer of numerous commentaries and chemical treatises that were widely circulated in Europe and influenced prominent men of science, including Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton.

Starkey was born in Bermudathe first of at least five children of George Stirk, a Scottish minister and devoted Calvinistand Elizabeth Painter.

During his early years in Bermuda, Starkey displayed interest in natural historyas evidenced by his written entomological observations of various insects indigenous to Bermuda. Introduced to alchemical theory, he would later stylise himself as the “Philosopher by Fire.

Despite his successful medical practice, Starkey immigrated at age 22 to London, England, in November with his wife, Susanna Stoughton, whom he had married earlier that year. Susanna is believed to be the eldest phklalethes of Colonel Israel Stoughtonand sister of William Stoughtona future governor of Massachusetts.

One clue points to his interest in alchemy and chemical technology. It is known that Starkey was acquiring great skill at building ovens to facilitate alchemical experiments. However, he complained that the region offered unsuitable material needed for their operation, and therefore believed that relocating to England could provide access to better material and higher quality laboratory implements as well.

Once in England, Starkey’s reputation as an phi,alethes and chymical furnace maker grew among the scientific community and he soon acquired a network of colleagues from the circle of friends and correspondents of Samuel Hartlib — a group of social reformers, utopians, and natural philosophers.

Imprisoned for a brief period of time, Starkey returned to the practice of alchemy and medicine upon his release in late Additionally, he wrote and published a number of popular treatises.

Yet, his most important work was written under several pseudonyms during the period prior eirenasus imprisonment when he was associated with the Hartlib circle.

Eirenaeus Philalethes (George Starkey)

The most famous of these works, the Introitus apertus ad occlusum regis palatiumwas published in after his death. Little is known of Starkey’s early education. Prior to the death of his father inStarkey most likely was tutored, perhaps by his parents or learned acquaintances of the family.

After the death of the elder Stirk, Starkey was sent to New England around to continue his studies. In he matriculated at Harvard College, where he was exposed to a core curriculum in the classical languages and theology in addition to courses in logic, physics, mathematics, politics, and history.


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Starkey earned his A. During his years at Harvard, Starkey was introduced to alchemy through the physics curriculum, which included subjects on metallic transmutation and potable gold. In addition, he acquired a thorough understanding of corpuscular matter theory that was important to his alchemist work throughout his career. During his final years at Harvard, Starkey became increasingly occupied with the practice of medicine.

He was a devoted follower of the Flemish iatrochemist Jan Baptist van Helmontand had been tutored in the practical applications of metallurgy. His eirenzeus practice appears to have been highly successful, which included iatrochemistry.

Eirenaeus Philalethes | The Online Books Page

Despite his flourishing practice, Starkey decided England could provide better access to the tools required by an alchemist, which prompted him to sail for London with his wife in November Upon his arrival in London, Starkey’s credentials as an alchemist were quickly established. He acquired immediate acclaim in England as an alchemical savantdue in part to the rirenaeus network of scientific practitioners and colleagues he had been associated with in New England.

Yet, there were individuals within this circle dedicated to preserving secrecy and the protection of knowledge, which may have initially inspired Starkey’s alternate identity. Starkey’s move to London was followed by remarkable success in establishing a medical practice and producing and administering medicinal remedies to patients, including Robert Boyle. However, despite his success, Starkey abandoned his patients in to pursue the “secrets” of alchemy, which included the production of pharmaceuticals and the transmutation of metallic substances.

As the inventor of curative philaleyhes and philosophical mercuries, it is reasonable to assume that Starkey was concerned with guarding these inventions and preserving his trade secrets.

The pseudonym ‘Philalethes’ allowed him to accomplish this by creating a fictitious identity under which a series of manuscripts and tracts were produced that proclaimed these discoveries while advertising that access to concealed alchemical knowledge might be obtained through Starkey, a eitenaeus of Philalethes and guardian of his manuscripts.

A few years after arriving in London, Starkey began to suffer from his own success. A variety of projects, from eieenaeus manufacture of perfumes and pharmaceuticals to the production of sophic mercuries, were pulling him in different directions, philalethds professional relationships, and failed to generate sufficient income.

The cost to personally fund these projects was leaving him financially unstable as debts increased. Pihlalethes, in —, Starkey’s creditors caught up with him. He was imprisoned twice for debt, and when not in prison, he avoided creditors by concealing his whereabouts.

It was necessary that a beleaguered Starkey reestablish his financial footing, restore his reputation, and attract new patronage. The final years of Starkey’s life were devoted ierenaeus resurrecting his medical practice and manufacturing income-producing medicines. However, he never wandered far from hpilalethes chymistry lab and his quest for Van Helmont’s alchahest or the philosophers’ stone.


No doubt he continued his search for the perfect liquor alchahest, a medicinal solvent whose purpose was similar to theriacan antidotal compound that was consumed to preserve health and prevent illness. Although he continued eirenafus produce medical treatises, three political pamphlets that he wrote in along with public disputes he engaged in with other medical practitioners and the Royal College of Physicians further tainted his career.

Inthe plague found London and George Starkey. For all of his belief in the ability of the Helmontian medicines to cure disease and prevent illness, the Helmontian alchahest Starkey prepared to combat the plague was ineffective.

To the end, Starkey remained faithful to the Flemish iatrochemist that he revered. George Starkey’s alchemical laboratory expertise and formalised methodology were highly respected by the scientific community and became the basis for later practices in eighteenth-century experimental chemistry. His influence on Boyle’s work and discoveries in chymistry is indisputable. It is perhaps the survival of Starkey’s laboratory journals that is most important, for they provide the least opaque window through which to view the laboratory operations and methodological practices of a seventeenth-century alchemist.

They were read by notable men of science in the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century, to include Boyle, Locke, Leibniz, and Newton.

Indeed, his writings were influential in the emerging field of chymistry by advancing the doctrine that chemical phenomena are the result of the interaction of insensible particles accompanied by chemical forces.

Works published under George Starkey’s name: Works published under the name of Philalethes. A number of these pyilalethes, including the Three eirenaeu and the Introitus were also included in the Musaeum Hermeticum of All English works of Philalethes have been recently compiled in one volume. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chemistry.

University of Chicago, Retrieved 26 March Retrieved from ” https: Views Read Edit View history. In philalrthes projects Wikimedia Commons. This page was last edited on 11 Decemberat By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Library resources about George Starkey. Resources in your library Resources in other libraries. Online books Resources in your library Resources in other libraries.