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Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry...
is an internationally recognised, peer reviewed journal and the leading specialist publication in its field. Published four times a year, its remit is to facilitate the publication of high-quality research and discussion in all areas relevant to the history of alchemy and chemistry including ancient, medieval and early modern alchemy, the Chemical Revolution, the impact of atomism, the rise of organic chemistry, the chemical industry, quantum chemistry, and interactions between the chemical sciences and other disciplines.

> View the journal homepage for instructions for authors and more. 

> View latest contents online now.


Sites of Chemistry

John Perkins introduces this four-year project

This year, Ambix publishes the first in a series of special issues devoted to the Sites of Chemistry, 1600–2000. Part of a four-year project sponsored by the Society for the History of Alchemy and the Wellcome Trust, these issues explore the varied sites, spaces and places in which chemistry has been practised since 1600. Guest Editor John Perkins introduces the project.

> Read John's introduction to the project


Sources of Alchemy and Chemistry

Ambix supplement

The Society for the History of Alchemy & Chemistry (SHAC) is proud to announce the launch of a new series of monograph-length volumes: Sources of Alchemy and Chemistry. This series will provide critical editions and English translations of some of the foundational texts in the history of alchemy and early chemistry: sources that have previously been inaccessible to all but a handful of scholars owing to a lack of modern editions. The series will be overseen by an international editorial board, under the general editorship of Professor Lawrence Principe (Baltimore) and myself, Dr Jennifer Rampling (Cambridge).

The series begins this year with one of the earliest known chemical texts: the Four Books of Pseudo-Democritus, edited by Dr Matteo Martelli (Berlin). Although the original work, dating from the first century, has not survived in its entirety, the Four Books can be reconstructed from later Greek and Syriac compilations – allowing important insights into some of the earliest recorded practices in western chemistry. This volume will be followed in 2014 by The Book of Alums and Salts, pseudonymously attributed to the Persian polymath Al-Razi. Dr Gabriele Ferrario (Cambridge) will present Arabic and Hebrew editions of this practical treatise, which exerted strong influence on the western alchemical tradition.

The series includes editions of works in Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin, all with English translation and commentary. Each volume will showcase the best and most up-to-date scholarship on early chemical writings, offering new insight into the origins of alchemy, chemistry and chemical technology. This exciting development has been made possible through the generosity of a private donor, which allows us not only to commission the best available scholarship, but also to provide these issues of Sources free of charge to members of the Society and Ambix subscribers.

Dr Jennifer Rampling, Editor of Ambix.


History of Ambix

Society for the History of Alchemy & Chemistry 

The Society for the Study of Alchemy & Early Chemistry (to give the present society its original title) was founded in November 1935. The society, chaired by the eminent physical chemist and historian of chemistry, James Riddick Partington, held its first meeting the following year and launched the journal Ambix in May 1937 under the editorship of the distinguished historian of Greek alchemy, Frank Sherwood Taylor. Interest in alchemy and the history of chemistry had increased during the 1920s and 1930s with the development of curiosity about the historical cultures of Egypt, Greece, India and China. These were also the decades in which the academic study of history of science took off, and in which the scientific community, as well as the general public, were fascinated by the way research in nuclear physics was suggesting the real possibility of the transmutation of the elements. It seems clear, then, that 1935 was the right moment for Partington and Taylor, together with the historians of science Douglas McKie and Eric Holmyard, to launch a society to study and interpret alchemy and early-modern chemistry. Its object would be “the study of alchemy and early chemistry in their scientific and historical aspects, and the publication of relevant material.”

Unfortunately, the society was forced to cease its publication activities for the duration of the Second World War. Following its re-establishment in 1946 and despite post-war austerity that lasted until the 1950s, and financial problems that curbed the expansion of Ambix until the production, distribution, marketing and sales management was taken on by Maney in 2004, the society and its flagship journal have survived. The international reputation that Ambix now enjoys owes its success to the society’s several chairmen, secretaries and treasurers, as well as to the successive editors who have carefully steered it to become not only a major journal in the history of science, but the lead journal in the history of the chemical sciences.  

 William H Brock, Member of the Ambix Editorial Advisory Board and Emeritus of Leicester University.

> Visit the society website

Jennifer Rampling
New journal developments
for 2013

Jennifer Rampling, Editor of Ambix, tells us about the new developments for the journal in 2013. These include a new online submission and tracking system, enlarged scope and increased frequency from 3 to 4 issues per year!

Read the full editorial from the new issue of Ambix

It will shortly be possible to submit your article online via Editorial Manager. In the meantime, all editorial correspondence and submissions should be sent to the Editor via email: 

Consult the Editor about your topic or submit an article

Alchemy and Religion
Tara Nummedal discusses this forthcoming issue

In the past two decades, scholars have successfully repositioned alchemy as central to the history of science and medicine. Whereas older scholarship tended to frame it as a largely symbolic, “occult” philosophy closely linked to esoteric magic or spiritual illumination, more recent studies have shown that alchemy addressed not only intellectual problems, such as matter theory, but also practical concerns such as mining, medicine, experimental techniques, commerce, and the power and limits of technology. Some of the most exciting work, in fact, has shown that alchemy was crucial, not marginal, to the Scientific Revolution.


In the process of detaching alchemy from “the occult” and insisting that it has a place in the history of science, however, other aspects of alchemy’s past have received less attention. I am delighted, therefore, that we will be able to highlight new work on alchemy as a religious engagement with the world in an upcoming special issue of Ambix.

> Read Tara's introduction to this forthcoming issue of Ambix


Partington Prize

Past prize winners discuss their articles

Every three years, the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry awards the Partington Prize, established in memory of Professor James Riddick Partington, the Society’s first Chairman. The Prize is awarded for an original and unpublished essay on any aspect of the history of alchemy or chemistry, which is published in Ambix.

The competition is now open for the 2014 Partington Prize, with a closing date of 31 December 2013. To mark the occasion, we look back at some recent prize-winners and their articles.

The 2011 Partington Prize was jointly awarded to Marcos Martinón-Torres and Evan Ragland. Marcos is currently a senior lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Evan wrote his essay while a doctoral student at the Department of History and Philosophy Science, Indiana University, and a visiting fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia. He has since been appointed as a lecturer at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Here’s what they have to say about their prizewinning essays

In 2008, the Prize was jointly awarded to Jennifer Rampling, now Editor of Ambix, and Georgette Taylor. Jennifer was in the second year of her PhD in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, when she wrote her essay, ‘Establishing the Canon: George Ripley and His Alchemical Sources’. Georgette was engaged in postdoctoral research in the Science Studies Department, UCL, where she previously completed her PhD on eighteenth-century British theories of affinity.

Here are Georgette's thoughts on her winning essay

All of these four prize winning essays are available to download until 15th April! Simply fill in the form at the top of the webpage to access these articles.

> Find out more about the prize and how to enter for 2014

See a full list of Partington Prize winners from 1975


Chemistry in the Aftermath of World Wars
Dr Yoshiyuki Kikuchi reintroduces this special issue of Ambix

‘Chemistry in the Aftermath of World Wars’ was the focus of the 2011 special issue of Ambix, guest-edited by Professor Jeffrey A Johnson (Villanova University). Topics ranged from the impact of World War I on the French and Japanese chemical communities, to the opportunities for British women chemists after World War II. Here Dr Yoshiyuki Kikuchi (International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden) discusses his own contribution to the issue, ‘World War I, International Participation and Reorganisation of the Japanese Chemical Community’...

My recent article started by asking the question, “What kind of ‘war’ did Japanese chemists fight during World War I?”. I answered by telling a less familiar story of the “chemist’s war” from an East Asian perspective, making two points...

> Read Dr Kikuchi's thoughts on his article

> View the special issue online


View free content online!

From 1 March to 15 April 2013 we are offering free access to all content in Ambix from the last 3 years.

To access this content simply fill out this quick form, click OK
and follow the link to view all content marked with or :


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Discounted subscription rates!

Throughout March only we are offering
20% off individual and institutional subscriptions.


WAS: £248.00 / US$398.00
NOW: £198.00 / US$318.00

WAS: £220.00 / US$375.00
NOW: £176.00 / US$300.00

Individuals: join SHAC to receive
the journal as a benefit of membership.
> Visit their website

Recommend this journal to your library

If you feel that a subscription to this journal would benefit your institution, please complete our library recommendation form.

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Best of the Ambix archive  

A selection of popular, high-quality articles

To celebrate Ambix being Journal of the Month in March, in addition to the 3 years' worth of free content, the following 20 articles are available free to download until 15th April 2013! These articles are a combination of those most
popular with readers, those hand-picked by the Editor of Ambix and the past Partington Prize winners' articles detailed on this webpage. Simply sign up using the form above to access your free content.

Inside Solomon’s House: an archaeological study of the Old Ashmolean chymical laboratory in Oxford

Marcos Martinon-Torres

Chymistry and Taste in the Seventeenth Century: Franciscus dele Boe Sylvius as a Chymical Physician Between Galenism and Cartesianism

Evan Ragland

Tracing Affinity in Small Steps: Richard Kirwan’s Quantified Affinity Theory

Georgette Taylor

Establishing the Canon: George Ripley and his Alchemical Sources

Jennifer M Rampling

The Origins of Greek Alchemy
F Sherwood Taylor

A Translation of John Dee’s "Monas Hieroglyphica" (Antwerp, 1564), with an Introduction and Annotations

C Josten

Robert Boyle’s Alchemical Secrecy: Codes, Ciphers and Concealments

Lawrence M Principe

Alchemical Reproduction and the Career of Anna Maria Zieglerin

Tara Nummedal

Margaret Cavendish’s Materialist Critique of Van Helmontian Chymistry

Stephen Clucas

The Authority of Practice in the Alchemy of Sir John Heydon (1588-1653)
Vera Keller

Theory or Practice? The Eighteenth-Century Debate on the Scientific Status of Chemistry

Christoph Meinel

Innovation in Chemistry Courses in France in the Mid-Eighteenth Century: Experiments and Affinities
Christine Lehmann

Enlightenment Chemistry Translated by a Brazilian Man of Science in Lisbon
Fernando J Luna and Lorelai B Kury

The Chemist Breeders: The Research Schools of Liebig and Thomas Thomson

J B Morrell

Looking for an Order of Things: Textbooks and Chemical Classifications in Nineteenth Century France

Jose Ramon Bertomeu-Sanchez, Antonio Garcia-Belmar & Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent

The Death of Vitalism and The Birth of Organic Chemistry: Wöhler’s Urea Synthesis and the Disciplinary Identity of Organic Chemistry

Peter J Ramberg

Before and After
Silent Spring: From Chemical Pesticides to Biological Control and Integrated Pest Management – Britain, 1945-1980

Hannah Gay

World War I, International Participation and Reorganisation of the Japanese Chemical Community

Yoshiyuki Kikuchi

World War II, Post-war Reconstruction and British Women Chemists

Sally Horrocks

The Fall and Rise of the History of Recent Chemistry

Peter J T Morris


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