What is the Difference Between Alchemy and Chemistry

Alchemy and chemistry are both fields of study that mainly focus on understanding matter and its behaviour. Each field has different approaches regarding matter.

What is the difference between alchemy and chemistry? Alchemy is an ancient system of philosophy that combined elements of science, mysticism, and the arts, all focused on understanding matter and its transformations, whereas chemistry is the scientific study of matter and its properties, behaviour, and changes it undergoes.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Alchemy  
      – Definition, Features 
2. What is Chemistry
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between Alchemy and Chemistry
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Alchemy and Chemistry
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Alchemy and Chemistry
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Alchemy, Chemistry

Difference Between Alchemy and Chemistry - Comparison Summary

What is Alchemy

Alchemy is an ancient philosophy that blended science, mysticism, and the arts. It aimed to understand the fundamental nature of matter. Alchemists believed in a primal material, sometimes called the “prima materia,” that could be manipulated. The methods used in alchemy were different from those in modern chemistry. Alchemists did not rely on righteous experiments and factual data analysis. Instead, they used symbolism, cryptic recipes passed down through generations, and philosophical ideas.


Alchemy laid the groundwork for modern chemistry. Alchemists developed essential techniques and equipment, like filtration and distillation, that later chemists adopted.

What is Chemistry

Chemistry is the science of matter’s makeup, behavior, and its transformations. It is considered as a central science. It is the science of matter. Chemistry’s main idea is about atoms, which are the fundamental building blocks of matter. It involves the study of the arrangement of protons, neutrons, and electrons within atoms, which dictates their properties and how they interact. These interactions lead to the formation of molecules held together by powerful chemical bonds.

Chemistry also involves chemical reactions. They are the processes where atoms rearrange and form completely new substances with totally different properties. There are many chemical reactions happening on Earth as well as in outer space.


Chemistry interlinks biology and physics. Building blocks of life being the complex organic molecules is a good example of this. The processes that keep organisms alive such as respiration, digestion and coordination are led by chemical reactions.

There are many applications of chemistry in day-to-day life and in the world. Some of them include the generation of fuel from fossil fuel, synthesis of DNA, photosynthesis, digestion of food in living organisms, respiration, irritability and coordination, decomposition and corrosion.

Similarities Between Alchemy and Chemistry

  1. Both subjects are involved in the understanding and manipulation of matter.
  2. Both alchemists and chemists were driven by a desire to understand the fundamental nature of the world around them.

Difference Between Alchemy and Chemistry


  • Alchemy is an ancient system of philosophy that combined elements of science, mysticism, and the arts, all focused on understanding matter and its transformations, whereas chemistry is the scientific study of matter and its properties, behaviour and changes it undergoes.


  • Alchemy relies heavily on symbolism, mysticism, and philosophical ideas, while chemistry is based on scientific methods, experimentation, observation, and data analysis.


  • Alchemical explanations for transformations were often vague and based on symbolic interpretations. Chemistry provides detailed explanations based on atomic structure, bonding, and reaction mechanisms.


  • Alchemical experiments were often poorly documented and difficult to reproduce. Hence. they produced inconsistent results, while chemistry emphasizes clear documentation and standardized procedures to ensure repeatable results.


  • Alchemists used a coded language filled with cryptic symbols and metaphors, while chemistry uses a universal language of symbols and terms to represent compounds, elements, and reactions.


Alchemy and chemistry both are involved in understanding matter. The main difference between alchemy and chemistry is their approach. Alchemy is an ancient practice that is mixed with science, mysticism, and symbolism, while chemistry is a study based on understanding matter based on the scientific method.

FAQ: Alchemy and Chemistry

1. What came first, alchemy or chemistry?

Alchemy came first. It is the precursor to modern chemistry. Alchemy’s origin runs back to the time of ancient civilizations. Chemistry appeared very much later.

2. Why is chemistry not alchemy? 

Chemistry relies on the scientific method, whereas alchemy relies on superstitions. Moreover, alchemical explanations for transformations were vague and often based on symbolism, whereas chemistry offers detailed explanations based on the behavior of atoms and their reactions.

3. Why did chemistry replace alchemy?

Chemistry emerged from alchemy over time (several centuries ago) due to the emergence of the scientific method, the rise of experimentation and observation, and the focus on measurable results.

4. Who separated alchemy and chemistry?

Robert Boyle, a chemist, initiated the gradual separation of chemistry from alchemy. In the 17th century, Boyle published a book called “The Sceptical Chymist”. The contents of this book challenged the core alchemic principles.

5. Can you create gold in a lab?

Yes, creating gold in a lab is possible. But this process requires a lot of energy and money. Even though gold can be produced using these methods, the produced amount would be very much less. Hence, the synthesis of gold is not a practical process.


1. “Alchemy.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Chemistry.” Encyclopedia Britannica.

Image Courtesy:

1. “WMS 446, R. Lullius, Ymage de Vie, late 15th Wellcome L0031726” By Welcome Image Gallery (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Learning Chemistry” By Preply.com Images (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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