The 2015 Oxford Seminar in the History of Alchemy and Chemistry will take place between 27 May and 17 June 2015 at the Maison Francaise d’Oxford (2-10 Norham Rd, OX2 6SE) every Wednesday, 3pm-5pm. The seminar is free of charge, and anyone with an interest in the history of alchemy, chemistry, medicine or the sciences is invited to attend. The format is two papers followed by a Questions & Answers session. There will be an opportunity to socialise at a nearby pub afterwards. In addition, everyone is welcome to join us for dinner with the speaker and chair.


The line-up is as follows:



27 May: 17th Century Alchemy*

Chair:  John Christie (Oxford)


Georgiana Hedesan (Oxford)

Quintessence and the Fire of Nature: The Alchemical Roots of the ‘Universal Solvent’ Alkahest


Judith Mawer (Goldmiths London)

The theo-magical roots of Thomas Vaughan's alchemy, as expounded in his Magia Adamica or The Antiquitie of Magic (1650)



3 June: 17th-18th Century Chemistry

Chair: Margaret Pelling (Oxford)


Anna Marie Roos (Lincoln)

The Chymistry of Francis Willughby (1635-1672): the Trinity College, Cambridge Community


Michael Bycroft (Warwick)

Alchemy, Art and Electricity: Research on Gems at the Académie Royale des Sciences, c. 1700-1750



10 June: 20th Century Chemistry

Chair: John Perkins (Oxford Brookes)


Linda Richards (Oregon)

Frederick Soddy, Alchemy and an Atomic Interpretation of Human Rights


Juan Andres Leon (CHF)

The Toxic Mutants and Maritime Creatures of the Gowanus: Urban Topography, Chemical Contamination and 21st Century Environmental Citizenship



17 June: 18th and 19th Century Chemistry

Chair: Pietro Corsi (Oxford)


Carolyn Cobbold (Cambridge)

The Silent Introduction of Synthetic Dyestuffs into Nineteenth Century Food


Julie Carr-Trebelhorn (Oxford)

Vital Networks and Fulfilled Expectations: Tracing Alexandre Brongniart’s Path to the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory (1770-1800)



*This session is preceded by ‘Alchemical Melodies’, a workshop on the musical dimensions of 17th century alchemy, organised by Dr Fabrizio Bigotti (Exeter), co-organised by myself and sponsored by the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry. For a programme see The speakers are:

Peter J. Forshaw (University of Amsterdam) - Alchemy, Myth and Music in Michael Maier's Atalanta Fugiens (1617)                                                                                                                                                        

Luca Guariento (University of Glasgow) - Matter, Spirit and Proportions: the Idea of Music in Robert Fludd’s Philosophy

Penelope Gouk (University of Manchester) - Transforming Matter, Refining the Spirit: Alchemy, Music and Experimental Philosophy around 1600

Fabrizio Bigotti (University of Exeter) - Allegorical Contents, Alchemical Suggestions and Rhetorical Techniques in Seventeenth-Century Music: Some Remarks


The workshop will begin at 9.30am and will last until 1.30pm. If you wish to attend this event, please send an email to [log in to unmask] announcing your intention.



For more information, questions or directions to the venue, please feel free to contact me at [log in to unmask]. More information is available at


We look forward to seeing you there!


All the best,





Georgiana D. Hedesan

Wellcome Trust Fellow

University of Oxford

History Faculty

George Street

Oxford, OX1 2R