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Alchemy vs. Chemistry: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 23, 2023
Alchemy refers to ancient practice combining elements of science, philosophy, and mysticism. Chemistry refers to modern science studying matter's properties, composition, and transformations.

Key Differences

Alchemy, originating in antiquity, sought to transform base metals into noble ones, like gold, and discover a life-elixir, blending mysticism with early scientific practices. Chemistry, on the other hand, evolved as a rigorous science, focusing on the study of matter, its properties, and the laws governing chemical reactions.
Alchemy's approach was holistic, considering astrological and spiritual aspects in their practices, often shrouded in secrecy and symbolism. Chemistry, conversely, relies on empirical evidence and experimentation, adhering to scientific methods and principles.
Alchemy often involved experimentation with materials and processes, it lacked the structured methodology and theoretical underpinning that define modern chemistry. Chemistry utilizes standardized techniques and theories like atomic structure and molecular bonding.
Alchemy's goals were not just material but also spiritual, seeking personal enlightenment and universal truths. Chemistry, however, is more pragmatic, aiming to understand and manipulate matter for practical applications like medicine, industry, and environmental protection.
Alchemy's legacy contributed to the development of early chemical processes and apparatuses, but it remained entwined with metaphysical and philosophical concepts. Chemistry, as a scientific discipline, has been integral in advancing technology, healthcare, and our understanding of the natural world.

Comparison Chart


Transmutation of metals, elixir of life
Understanding and manipulating matter


Holistic, symbolic, secretive
Empirical, experimental, systematic


Material and spiritual transformation
Matter properties, composition, reactions


Mysticism, philosophy
Scientific principles, theories


Early material experimentation
Diverse fields like medicine, industry

Alchemy and Chemistry Definitions


A precursor to chemistry with philosophical undertones.
Alchemy's experiments laid groundwork for modern chemical processes.


A branch of science focusing on elements and compounds.
Chemistry helps us understand the composition of everything around us.


A quest for a universal elixir and noble metals.
Legends of alchemy often involve the search for an elixir of life.


A discipline exploring the properties of substances.
Chemistry explains why certain materials behave under specific conditions.


An ancient art seeking to achieve transformation and enlightenment.
Alchemy's pursuit of the philosopher's stone symbolized ultimate wisdom.


The investigation of chemical reactions and processes.
The chemistry lab is equipped to analyze a wide range of reactions.


A blend of early scientific exploration and mystical practices.
Alchemy combined elements of astrology, spirituality, and proto-science.


The science of matter and its interactions.
In chemistry, we study how different substances react with each other.


A medieval chemical philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of the panacea, and the preparation of the elixir of longevity.


The science of the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially of atomic and molecular systems.


A seemingly magical power or process of transmuting
"He wondered by what alchemy it was changed, so that what sickened him one hour, maddened him with hunger the next" (Marjorie K. Rawlings).


The composition, structure, properties, and reactions of a substance.


(uncountable) The premodern and early modern study of physical changes, particularly in Europe, Arabia, and China and chiefly in pursuit of an elixir of immortality, a universal panacea, and/or a philosopher's stone able to transmute base metals into gold, eventually developing into chemistry.
The purpose of physical alchemy—as opposed to its various spiritual pursuits—was to treat the supposed leprosity of base metals such as lead, refining and purifying them into gold.


The elements of a complex entity and their dynamic interrelation
"Now that they had a leader, a restless chemistry possessed the group" (John Updike).


(countable) The causing of any sort of mysterious sudden transmutation.


Mutual attraction or sympathy; rapport
The chemistry was good between the partners.


Any elaborate transformation process or algorithm.


(uncountable) The branch of natural science that deals with the composition and constitution of substances and the changes that they undergo as a consequence of alterations in the constitution of their molecules.


An imaginary art which aimed to transmute the baser metals into gold, to find the panacea, or universal remedy for diseases, etc. It led the way to modern chemistry.


(countable) An application of chemical theory and method to a particular substance.


A mixed metal composed mainly of brass, formerly used for various utensils; hence, a trumpet.
Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy.


The chemical properties and reactions of a particular organism, environment etc.


Miraculous power of transmuting something common into something precious.
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy.


(informal) The mutual attraction between two people; rapport.


A pseudoscientific forerunner of chemistry in medieval times


That branch of science which treats of the composition of substances, and of the changes which they undergo in consequence of alterations in the constitution of the molecules, which depend upon variations of the number, kind, or mode of arrangement, of the constituent atoms. These atoms are not assumed to be indivisible, but merely the finest grade of subdivision hitherto attained. Chemistry deals with the changes in the composition and constitution of molecules. See Atom, Molecule.


The way two individuals relate to each other;
Their chemistry was wrong from the beginning -- they hated each other
A mysterious alchemy brought them together


An application of chemical theory and method to the consideration of some particular subject; as, the chemistry of iron; the chemistry of indigo.


A medieval practice blending science and mysticism.
The alchemist spent years attempting to turn lead into gold.


A treatise on chemistry.


The science of matter; the branch of the natural sciences dealing with the composition of substances and their properties and reactions


The way two individuals relate to each other;
Their chemistry was wrong from the beginning -- they hated each other
A mysterious alchemy brought them together


The study of atomic and molecular structures and reactions.
Chemistry delves deep into how molecules bond and form new substances.


What is alchemy?

An ancient practice combining elements of mysticism and early scientific experimentation.

What is chemistry?

A branch of science studying the composition, properties, and transformations of matter.

Was alchemy scientific?

Alchemy had aspects of early scientific methods but was heavily intertwined with spiritual and philosophical beliefs.

How does chemistry differ from alchemy?

Chemistry is a structured, empirical science, whereas alchemy blended mysticism with material experimentation.

How has chemistry impacted modern life?

Chemistry has been crucial in technological advancements, healthcare, and understanding the environment.

Did alchemy contribute to modern chemistry?

Yes, alchemy laid some foundational concepts and techniques used in modern chemistry.

What are chemical reactions?

Processes in which substances interact to form new compounds with different properties.

Did alchemy have a spiritual aspect?

Yes, alchemy also sought spiritual enlightenment and universal truths.

What are the practical applications of chemistry?

Chemistry is used in medicine, industry, environmental science, and various other fields.

Why did alchemy decline?

Alchemy declined as the more empirical and systematic approach of modern chemistry emerged.

How were alchemical texts written?

Alchemical texts often used symbolic language and allegory, making them difficult to interpret.

How do chemical bonds work?

Chemical bonds are the forces holding atoms together in molecules, essential for forming substances.

What distinguishes organic from inorganic chemistry?

Organic chemistry focuses on carbon-containing compounds, while inorganic chemistry studies other elements.

Did alchemists create any useful substances?

Alchemists developed early forms of medicines, alloys, and chemical processes.

What is the philosopher's stone in alchemy?

A legendary substance in alchemy believed to turn base metals into gold and grant immortality.

Can chemistry create gold from other elements?

Chemically, it's not feasible to create gold from other elements under normal laboratory conditions.

Can chemistry explain all material phenomena?

Chemistry provides insights into many material phenomena, but some aspects may intersect with physics or biology.

Is chemistry a purely laboratory-based science?

While much of chemistry is laboratory-based, it also involves theoretical and computational studies.

Was alchemy a global practice?

Alchemy was practiced in various forms across different cultures, including in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

What is the role of a chemist?

Chemists study the properties of substances and develop new materials and processes.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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