Alchemy: History of Science #10

In fantasy stories, charlatans in fancy robes promise to turn lead into gold. But real alchemists weren’t just mystical misers. They were skilled experimentalists, backed by theories of matter.
And they played a huge role in the development of knowledge about one of our fundamental questions: “what is stuff?”


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CC Kids:
  • Awsamazing Eden

    I cannot be the only one thinking of Fullmetal Alchemist right now.

  • Taneth

    When I was 4, I tried to unburn a slice of toast by putting it in the fridge. I ended up with cold burned toast. Alchemy!

  • Scara Dikov

    Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange. In those days, we really believed that to be the world's one, and only truth.

  • priyanshu pradhan

    thanks for the FMA reference and not for the nina reference

  • Graser1112

    Real talk though, this video just made me appreciate how much research Arakawa put into FMA. Like, one of the big alchemy guy's names having "von Hohenheim" in it. That same guy coining "Alkahest." Chinese alchemy being based on "Earth magic." God bless Hiromu Arakawa.

  • Nathan Platt

    "Good thing today we have the internet to help everyone agree on scientific questions based on evidence...Right?" .....Hehe you funny host you. lol

  • Darth Savage

    I shed a tear when I saw Nina & Alexander

  • Paul Loken

    Poor Nina and Alexander

  • SophieHatterLeFay

    Edward Elric is still my favorite Alchemist in history

  • Dinonid123

    About 35% of these comments are gonna be FMA jokes. It’s just a consequence of even mentioning alchemy. Anyway the ingredient to a philosopher’s stone is human souls there’s your reference, thank you.

  • Basketball Propaganda


  • Twitchy Eyebrows

    Guess I'm early, time to make an FMA joke about fusing a child and her dog together to make a chimera

  • ngneer999

    Why don't you mention modern Alchemy. Every plutonium atom is transmuted from Uranium. In my field of semiconductor materials high purity silicon is exposed to neutrons to produce transmuted phosphorous which is evenly distributed throughout the ingot. (process known as Neutron Transmutation Doping or NTD). Alchemy lives.

  • Sergio Bobillier

    Is a shame that the only reference to Fullmetal Alchemist was the tiny animation of Nina and her dog.

  • Alex Fairchild

    FMA reference 😀&😢 at the same time!

  • Mario U Comics and Cartoons

    I'm just here for all the anime related comments

  • Mike Kuppen

    "Decknamen" is German for pseudonym.

  • Faux Synder

    I was hoping to see an FMA reference and I was not disappointed. But what was chosen=instant regret D: Super awesome video guys!

  • Tran Jeremy

    I see Nina and Alexander. Well played Crash Course.... Well played.

  • MegaZeroX7

    "We eat stuff that is not at all human"You don't know me!

  • Ulises Cabrera

    Fullmetal Alchemist was in the back of my head the whole entire video. and when Hohenheim was mentioned i had a literal epiphany moment

  • DagarCoH

    Just another interesting alchemy story: Johann Böttger claimed to be able to make lead into gold. In 1701 he was incarcerated by the king of saxony for that claim; since the king was short on money Böttger should prove it. He tried to flee several times, but in the end managed to make porcelain (or at least aided in it; some claim Tschirnhaus, a contemporary and colleague of Böttger actually made it, and Tschirnhaus also was the one who had been researching on porcelain for a long time before). After confessing to the king that he was unable to make gold (another alchemist had been executed in Prussia for the false claim) and after Tschirnhaus' death, Böttger got a management position in the newly founded and soon to be famous porcelain manufactory in Meissen. In the end, he regained his full freedom after 13 years of incarceration.

  • Patrick Reding

    Of course, the real philosophers' stone turned out to be the particle accelerator.

  • Alipasha Sadri

    You missed the law of equivalent exchange!

  • SuicideBunny6

    "Humankind can not gain anything, without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is Alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange."


    Wow. Turns out edward elric's father was the most succesful alchemist in histort.

  • Albert Lopez

    I was hoping to hear about homunculi and the law of equilavent exchange

  • Eli Estephan

    dude, after watching this, it is so cool how many real world historical elements were implemented in fmab. I gotta watch that anime again

  • That Ginger Kid

    All your soul are belong to us

  • GlitchKing

    TIL where the weird name of "Von Hohenheim" in FMA came from

  • Ravenpotter

    Edward Elric is short.(Ed please don't kill me (FMA joke))

  • Gabrielle Zuiker

    Alchemy was basically smart creative people with philosophical minds throwing random stuff together, having no idea how anything worked, but kept getting results so fascinating and strange that they couldn't help but keep doing it while they tried to figure out the secrets of the universe and themselves in the process. Then were so mindblown by it all that they had trouble taking good notes. How lovely.

  • WeiYinChan

    Interesting how all of these ideas are incorporated into fullmetal alchemist

  • [ D_wang ]

    Incoming Fullmetal Alchemist References

  • yukido

    Hello there! "Decknamen" is actually a german compound (hehe) word.Meaning "deck" as in to cover (something up) and "namen" as in... well, names.So, Decknamen are "cover names". Words covering up their true meaning.Also, I love your videos! <3EDIT: Source: I'm german :-)

  • AL Y

    trying not to think of fullmetal alchemist

  • Shinchan World

    I thought he'd address Paulo Coelho, the writer who wrote the book "the Alchemist" coz I loved that book..

  • FajerJ

    In my opinion alchemy is more of a spiritual understanding than a written knowledge I have to say I didn't read a lot of books concerning alchemy but most of my knowledge about it is from the stories I've heard growing up the man who turned sand into gold the man who stole the written recipe and the man who burned it if you are middle eastern you probably heard it 😂😂 we have hands down the best folklore out there

  • GemsAndGentsAA

    Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist was a great read in middle school !

  • Penny Lane

    So you're saying keeping the useful results to yourself while encouraging your colleagues to try the stupid stuff like transmutation and burned-frozen zombie leaves is not an effective setup to build a system of knowledge? Well thank God for peer review and publicly funded science then I guess.

  • Feynstein 100

    Although, if fusion becomes possible and economical, we will actually be able to convert lead into gold. Perhaps the alchemists were only about 500 years ahead of their time :P

  • Michael Gifford

    “The philosopher’s stone is a Universal Solvent” those who have ears let them hear.

  • Alyssa G.

    Hank: says DecknamenMe, a German who did not expect to hear a German word in a video about Alchemy: o:

  • bassontreble

    The video states that Gutenberg was born in 1468. This is the year of his death. He developed his method of printing was developed in the 1450s.

  • uperscors

    I see that subtle reference to Nina, thought bubble.

  • Neptune_ PSG

    Mercury is the Roman messager god, not Greek.

  • Lili-chan

    All I can think of is Fullmetal Alchemist.

  • Joeven Cerveza

    With nano printer this could be possible

  • Sudipto Dey

    Remember how there was an April fools' joke by Crash Course's Facebook page that said "Crash Course: Alchemy".Well, here it is (kind of!)

  • Gravijta

    Seriously, what is the relationship between Complexly and PBS Digital Studios? Did PBSDS pick up a few Complexly Channels as a part of a network? I need to know!

  • SHSL otaku

    I love how you made that FMA joke but subtly putting that cartoon of Nina and Alexander. You could've made it a obvious and big joke like everyone else has, but nope 👍

  • Tom Trval

    That Fullmetal Alchemist reference...

  • Emma J

    We cannot forget the most esteemed alchemist of all time: Edward Elric, the FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST 😤😤😤

  • Amber Stacey

    waaaaah I knew the chimera reference was coming

  • Noah M.

    I knew the comments would be filled with Fullmetal Alchemist

  • Ashrith G

    The Fullmetal Alchemist

  • SuicideBunny6

    HELL YEAHH \m/ De Re Metallica \m/

  • Ravenpotter

    Guys, you have to watch the anime FULL METAL ALMHEMIST! IT’S ON NETFLIX AND ITS SOOOOOOOO GOOD AND I LOVE IT! INJUST FINISHED WATCHING IT AND I CRIED SO MUCH!It's so interesting and I love all of the characters.

  • ElephantsLover

    5:08 looks at bottom lett corner sobs IM NOT CRYING YOU ARE!!! OH GOD NINA!!!

  • Alvenikh Azaria

    Damn, Full metal alchemist was well researched

  • No lyfe boi

    basically alchemy is equivalent exchange

  • sven42xyz

    If you may accept my help; the german word "Decknamen" you just mentioned is actually pronunced like Dek-nahmen.

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