R¯az¯i (c. 850–925 or 932) Islamic alchemist who also made important contributions to medicine. R¯az¯i, born Ab¯u Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakar¯iyy¯a, was known as Rhazes, Rhasis, Rasi, and Al-Razi. He was called the man of Ray, a city that in his day was a major cultural center. R¯az¯i was born near Teheran. He went to Ray to study and learned philosophy, logic, metaphysics, poetry, and his special love, music. When he was 30, he took a trip to Baghdad and there became interested in medicine. He helped to plan the rebuilding of the hospital in Baghdad, hoping for an appointment there, but he was sent back to Ray instead to take charge of a hospital. Soon, however, he was recalled to Baghdad and given the post of physicianin-charge of the hospital. R¯az¯i remained in Baghdad until his retirement when he returned once again to Ray. R¯az¯i wrote encyclopedias on music and medicine, as well as books on other topics. Several of 12 books on chemistry attributed to him were probably written anonymously by others who used his name. R¯az¯i is credited with writing numerous books on Alchemy, but only one survives, The Book of the Secret of Secrets. He believed that all substances are composed of the four Elements, but he did not accept JABIR IBN HAYYAN’s theory of balances. He believed that alchemy could accomplish the transmutation of base metals into GOLD and SILVER and even transmute stones such as quartz into such precious jewels as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Transmutation could be accomplished with a master Elixir; R¯az¯i never used the term Philosopher's Stone to describe such an elixir. His alchemical work led to contributions to medicine, chemistry, and pharmacology. Later in his life, R¯az¯i presented a treatise on the transmutation of metals to Emir Almansour, prince of Khorassan, who was so impressed with it that he gave 1,000 pieces of gold to R¯az¯i. The prince wished to witness a transmutation, and R¯az¯i agreed to perform one provided that he had the proper equipment. The prince had R¯az¯i outfitted with a well-stocked laboratory. But R¯az¯i failed miserably in the transmutation, and the enraged prince beat him about the head. He soon went blind; some sources say as a result of the beating, while others attribute it to his long years of intense reading and writing.
- Holmyard, E. J. Alchemy. New York: Penguin Books, 1957.
- Waite, Arthur Edward. Alchemists Through the Ages. Blauvelt, N.Y.: Rudolph Steiner Publications, 1970.