Norton, Thomas

Thomas Norton, (d. 1477) was an English alchemist who learned from George Ripley. Thomas Norton is the author of a noted alchemical work, The Ordinall of Alchimy.

Thomas Norton the alchemist is believed to be the same Thomas Norton as the privy councillor to Edward VI. He was born to a wealthy family in Bristol; his father was sheriff of Bristol in 1401 and mayor in 1413 and also was a member of Parliament.

Norton began his study of Alchemy early in life, writing letters to Adepts and asking for information. He was 28 when he sent a letter to Ripley, who answered by inviting him to meet face-to-face to discuss the secrets of the art. Ripley promised to make him “my heir and brother in this art.”

Norton stayed with Ripley for 40 days. He had already studied both the occult sciences and natural philosophy; and he quickly learned alchemy. However, Ripley declined to give him the secret of the process of making the white elixir into red elixir (see Elixir OF LIFE; Philosopher's Stone) because of his youth, and the danger of using it improperly. Only after Norton convinced him of his integrity did Ripley at last yield up the secret.

Norton returned to Bristol with the secret for making the Great Red Elixir. But his first elixir was stolen by a servant, sending Norton into such a deep depression that he nearly gave up alchemy altogether. He rallied and made more elixir, but once again he was robbed, this time by a woman who was said to be the wife of William Canning, the mayor of Bristol, who suddenly came into great wealth.

In 1477 Norton wrote Of Alkimy the Ordinal, the Crede Mihi, the Standard Perpetuall, which became known as The Ordinall of Alchimy. He gave a copy to George Nevill, the archbishop of York, to whom Ripley dedicated one of his major works. The Ordinall is written in verse, originally in Latin. It’s first English translations was in 1652 in Elias Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum.

The Ordinall discusses alchemists and their equipment, especially their furnaces, and describes procedures in vague terms. Norton portrays alchemy as a holy art that should not be undertaken for “appetite of Lucre and Riches.” He admonishes alchemists to learn how to discern honest and real alchemists from frauds and charlatans and says that most books of alchemical recipes are false. He holds that Nature can transmute minerals to metals under the Sun’s rays but that alchemy is more modest and must deal with the transmutation of existing metals. Astrological aspects are important for carrying out the work in four successive stages: SUN in Sagittarius and Moon in Aries; Sun in Libra and Moon in Virgo; Sun in Virgo and Moon in Libra; and Sun and Moon both in Leo.

Norton gave no evidence of profiting from his alchemical labours, and friends who invested money with him took losses. He died in 1477. His grandson, Samuel, also became an alchemist and wrote treatises on the Hermetic arts.



  • Holmyard, E. J. Alchemy. New York: Penguin Books, 1957.
  • Waite, Arthur Edward. Alchemists Through the Ages. Blauvelt, N.Y.: Rudolph Steiner Publications, 1970.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.