J’BIR IHBIN AYAM (722-804)

Around two thousand texts are attributed to this name; the founder of a Shi’ite sect. They were written over a hundred and fifty year period either side of the year 1000.

‘Sulfur and Mercury hypothesis’ (the idea that the glisten of mercury and the yellow of sulphur may somehow be combined in the form of gold).

An Alchemical theory. Accepting the Aristotelian ‘fundamental qualities’ of hot, cold, dry and moist, all metals are composed of two principles: Under the ground two fumes – one dry and smoky (sulfur), one wet and vaporous (mercury) – arising from the centre of the earth, condense and combine.

This is said to explain the similarity of all metals; different metals contain different proportions of these two substances. In base metals the combination is impure, in silver and gold they co-exist in a higher state of purity.

The idea underpins the theory of transmutation, as all metals are composed of the same substances in differing proportions. This became the cornerstone of all chemical theory for the next eight hundred years.

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