Geber, (-)

The library of Joseph Curwen is said to have had a copy of Geber's Liber Investigationis.

The earliest known work of the Arabian school of alchemy or chemistry is the 'Summa Perfectionis,' or "Summit of Perfection" written in the 8th century by the Arabian scientist Geber (Jabir ibn-Hayyan) who flourished between 721-76 by some accounts but is believed to have died in 815, during the time of the caliphates of the Abbasids from 750-1258. The work is consequently the oldest book on chemistry in the world (unless one believed that 'Physika kai Mystika' by Bolos of Mendes is the oldest on alchemy/chemistry), and is a collection of all that was then known and believed. The Arabian alchemists worked with gold and mercury, arsenic and sulfur, and salts and acids, and became familiar with a wide range of what are now called chemical reagents. They believed that metals are compound bodies, made up of mercury and sulfur in different proportions. Their scientific creed was the potentiality of transmutation, and their methods were mostly blind groping; yet, in this way, they found many new substances, and invented many useful processes. To the Arab alchemists we owe the terms: alcohol, alkali, borax, and elixir. There is also a 'Book of Mercury' ascribed to him or one of his followers.

But most of the works attributed to Geber date from the ninth and tenth centuries and include 'Liber misericordiae' (mid ninth century), the 'One Hundred Twelve' and the 'Liber de septuaginta' (late ninth century), the 'Book of Balances' (early tenth century), and the 'Five Hundred Books' (mid tenth century). According to these treatises, metals are composed of of four elements (fire, air, earth, and water), of their basic qualities, of sulfur, and of mercury; the relationships among these are expressed in arithmetic terms (the principle of balances). In order to decompose metter and create elixirs, distillation was used, especially for organic substances (discovery of sal ammoniac).

("The Case of Charles Dexter Ward")

See also: Liber Investigationis