Engraving of the alchemical universe 1618

Atlas Obscura: How Scholars Cracked a Medieval Alchemist’s Secret Code

Online magazine features Institute fellows Megan Piorko and Sarah Lang, who helped decode a puzzling Latin cipher.

November 15, 2021

Science History Institute fellows Megan Piorko and Sarah Lang are featured in an Atlas Obscura article about a Latin cipher written by 16th- and 17th-century alchemist and physician Arthur Dee. Piorko, who is a second-year Allington Postdoctoral Fellow, and Lang, who is a short-term Herdegen Fellow, contributed to the decryption of what turned out to be the recipe for the legendary Philosophers’ Stone. The pair is currently working on an article about the cipher and its secrets with mathematician and cryptologist Richard Bean. They plan to reach out to chemistry colleagues who also work in the history of alchemy to help them recreate Dee’s recipe for eternal life.

Read more on atlasobscura.com >>

Engraving by Matthaeus Merian the Elder depicts the alchemical universe with the Philosopher’s Stone at its center, 1618. FOTOTECA STORICA NAZIONALE/CONTRIBUTOR/GETTY IMAGES

More News

screenshot of the Institute's homepage

Sciencehistory.org Is 2024 Webby Honoree

Institute’s website recognized by the 28th Annual Webby Awards as one of the best of the internet in the science category.

colorful pair of eclipse glasses on a table in the museum gallery

Get Ready for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse with Free Science History Institute Glasses

Visit our museum for your very own pair of eclipse glasses to view the highly anticipated celestial event on April 8.

overhead view of museum displays

Science History Institute Is ‘Best-Kept Secret’ Finalist in Visit Philly’s Inaugural Liberty Bell Awards

Help us win by voting once a day now through March 14, 2024.


    Copy the above HTML to republish this content. We have formatted the material to follow our guidelines, which include our credit requirements. Please review our full list of guidelines for more information. By republishing this content, you agree to our republication requirements.