Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Early Science & Alchemy

Science in all its strangeness before the 18th century

Renaissance oil painting woman holding a mirror while another looks on
Early Science & Alchemy

Controversy, Control, and Cosmetics in Early Modern Italy

In a society that damned women for both plainness and adornment, wearing makeup became a defiant act of survival.

Early Science & Alchemy

William Dampier, Revered and Reviled

The pirate-turned-naturalist-turned-pirate-again inspired generations of British writers and scientists.

illustration of a people making paper
Early Science & Alchemy

Chasing the Clues in Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts

The tricks and tools book sleuths use to date the undated.

Early Science & Alchemy

The Newton Mess

What a manuscript can tell us about an iconic scientist and the history we’ve built around him.

illustration of alchemists
Early Science & Alchemy

Dr. Butler and the Quest for the Philosophers’ Stone

How searching for alchemy’s secrets helped create modern science.

Early Science & Alchemy

Would a Book Lie?

The clues that betray a book’s disreputable past.

Engraved portrait of man
Early Science & Alchemy

Paracelsus, the Alchemist Who Wed Medicine to Magic

Historian Bruce Moran reveals the life of an itinerant doctor whose work influenced modern science.

Early Science & Alchemy

The Anatomy Riot of 1788

When New York’s poor revolted against the city’s grave-robbing medical establishment.

Black and white lithograph of a painting showing an old man in robes on his knees being illuminated by a substance in a set of early chemical equipment
Early Science & Alchemy

Hennig Brandt and the Discovery of Phosphorus

An engraving hints at the ways art and science were intertwined in the Age of Enlightenment.

Early Science & Alchemy

Snakes and Letters

An ancient work on toxicology gets a 16th-century makeover from a master of fonts.

Early Science & Alchemy

The Language of Alchemy

Alchemists once wrote of chaos, dragons, and spirits, but did they know more about chemistry than we give them credit for?

Early Science & Alchemy

Isaac Newton and the American Alchemist

A manuscript reveals the mark a mysterious American alchemist made on Isaac Newton and other early chemists.

Early Science & Alchemy

Tryals and Tribulations

Doctors battle for supremacy in the 17th century.

gloved hand mixing ingredients for an experiment
Early Science & Alchemy

Making and Knowing (Fake) Coral

Watch historians re-create a recipe for imitation coral, a popular material in early modern jewelry and home décor.

Detail from Secretioris naturae secretorum scrutinium chymicum, Michael Maier (1687)
Early Science & Alchemy

Gold, Secrecy, and Prestige

Did alchemists disappear from history, or did they just change their coats?

Early Science & Alchemy

Pumped Up

More than 350 years ago the very first air pump changed how science was done.

Early Science & Alchemy

Albertus Magnus, Mineralogy, and the Secrets of Women

What connects a founder of the Western model of university education to the secrets of women?

Early Science & Alchemy

Cloth of the World

In Renaissance maps geography becomes an art form.