The right of levying seigniorage, however, was sometimes waived by the king to encourage his subjects to bring gold and silver to the mint, and several instances are recorded in which the aid of alchemists was called in to effect the transmutation of baser metals into gold.
But there is some evidence that, in accordance with the strong and constant tradition among the alchemists, the idea of transmutation did originate in Egypt with the Greeks of Alexandria.
In the introduction to his work Von der Weltseele, however, he argues in favour of the possibility of a transmutation of species in periods incommensurable with ours.
Lamarck, Treviranus, Erasmus Dar win, Goethe, and Saint-Hilaire preached to deaf ears, for they advanced the theory that living beings had developed by a slow process of transmutation in successive generations from simpler ancestors, and in the beginning from simplest formless matter, without being able to demonstrate any existing mechanical causes by which such development must necessarily be brought about.
The search for this essence subsequently resolved itself into the desire to effect the transmutation of metals, more especially the base metals, into silver and gold.
He himself was an alchemist; and believing the transmutation of metals to be a possibility, he carried out experiments in the hope of effecting it; and he was instrumental in obtaining the repeal, in 1689, of the statute of Henry IV.
He arranges a selection from his observations on the nebulae in such a way as to give great plausibility to his view of the gradual transmutation of nebulae into stars Herschel begins by showing us that there are regions in the heavens where a faint diffused nebulosity is all that can be detected by the telescope.
The fundamental theory of the transmutation of metals is to be found in the Greek alchemists, although in details it was modified and elaborated by the Arabs and the Latin alchemists.
In attempting to pronounce on the evidence with regard to Herschel's theory, we must at once admit that the transmutation of a nebula into a star has never been seen.
Thus, in the treatise known as Physica et Mystica and falsely ascribed to Democritus (such false attributions are a constant feature of the literature of alchemy), various receipts are given for colouring and gilding metals, but the conception of transmutation does not occur.