Albert Aluys (18th c.) was a French fraudulent alchemist. Albert Aluys (also given as Alnys) was stepson to the alchemist Jean Delisle.
Little is known about Aluys’s life prior to the involvement of his mother with Delisle, whom she met in a roadside cabaret. She left her husband and departed with Delisle, remaining with him for five or six years and eventually marrying him. Some sources say that Albert Aluys was Delisle’s illegitimate son, but Delisle took on the role of stepfather.
Aluys learned the fraudulent alchemical trade from Delisle and spoke the jargon with the best of them. Upon Delisle’s death in about 1711–12, Aluys let it be known that he had inherited the secret of the philosopher’s stone. His mother helped him commit fraud. Their goal was to deceive wealthy patrons into supporting them in a lavish lifestyle.
Aluys and his mother left Provence, France, and travelled about Europe sponging off credulous victims, and performing phony transmutations with the help of double-bottomed crucibles. By 1726 the mother was dead, and Aluys journeyed to Vienna, where he presented himself to the Duke of Richelieu, the French ambassador. Richelieu was duped, witnessing on several occasions the apparent transmutation of lead into gold. He even made an iron nail turn into silver. The duke boasted of his deeds but disappointed Aluys by not giving him funds. Rather, the duke expected Aluys to transmute all of his base metals, including every common tool and implement, into precious metals, simply for the pleasure of it.
Aluys decamped for Bohemia, taking with him a student and a girl who was in love with him and whom he married. There he successfully deceived a number of nobles by presenting them with a gift of transmuted metal and promising them riches, if only they would provide lodging, meals, and expenses.
He returned to France, but in Marseilles he was arrested and imprisoned on charges of coining, or counterfeiting. He ingratiated himself with the daughter of the jailer and after a year was able to make his escape, leaving the jilted girl behind.
Joined by his wife, Aluys went to Brussels, where he set up a laboratory and publicized that he knew the secret of the Stone. People flocked to him and believed him. Aluys duped a wealthy man for a year, and when the man discovered that Aluys was a fraud, he demanded his money back. Aluys refused and was taken to court. But the case was never prosecuted because the patron died suddenly. Rumour had it that he had been poisoned by Aluys. Sentiment turned against the alchemist, and he fled the city for Paris. There he lived quietly. His fate is not known.
- Mackay, Charles. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1932.