Chemistry as we know it is a rational science. However, both the word chemistry and the science of chemistry itself evolved out of the pre-scientific practice of alchemy. In today's episode, we look at the origins of alchemy, a few theories regarding its etymology, and how medieval Arabic plays into Europe's inheritance of this word. Finally, we consider the circumstances under which alchemy became chemistry as we know it today.
Unlike most Arabic loanwords, the word serendipity was not borrowed from a foreign language, but invented by an eighteenth century Englishman. It's based on Serendip, an old Arabic word for the nation of Sri Lanka, and was inspired by an Italian folk tale originally composed in Persian. The odd coinage of ‘serendipity’ is an international story that spans many cultures, languages, and time periods.