Alchemy, Astrology, and Magic: The Occult Origins of Science

Wayne State University

Eric H. Ash is a Professor of History at Wayne State University, where he is the recipient of their President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He received his doctorate in the History of Science from Princeton University and is a specialist in the science and technology of the Renaissance and early modern eras. Professor Ash is the author of two books, including his most recent, entitled The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England.



Although science is viewed by most today as a bastion of reason and evidence, the origins of our modern scientific method have some of their roots in the irrational-seeming world of the occult: alchemy, astrology and magic. Belief in the occult goes all the way back to the ancient world, but it remained prevalent into the modern era. During the “Scientific Revolution” of the seventeenth century, the natural world was still believed to be full of secret knowledge and powers, knowable and accessible only by the very wisest and most pious scholars. The “occult sciences” seemed to offer a way of penetrating Nature’s most interesting and useful secrets, as well as a path to controlling them. Ultimately, the occult sciences were believed to hold the key to harnessing and manipulating the boundless hidden powers of Nature itself, and many of the most famous scientists of the era actively pursued them.




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Gretchen Hazen

Excellent talk on origins of "science"

Packed with information presented in an understandable and entertaining way. Very articulate speaker.

5 months ago
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