Without documented proof, we ain’t going to believe that someone turned a different material into gold. It is also possible that there might be many attempts to do so before this scientific approach that occurred around 300 AD. The Alchemist’s dream was finally achieved by this proto-scientist.
Alchemy joins hands with science
A Greco-Egyptian named Zosimos is the proto-scientist that wrote about 30 books on alchemy throughout his lifetime. But, those have been lost to history. Glimpses of his work suggest that he mainly focused on the use of sulfur vapors that causes some things to turn yellow. It is not necessarily gold. For example; if you mix sulfur vapors with liquid mercury the resultant substance is a yellow solid, but not gold.
From then on for nearly two thousand years renowned scientists like Roger Bacon, Isaac Newton, Jabir ibn Hayyan and Robert Boyle all tried their hand at making gold. It was bound to fail but it gave the world various other advancements in the field of their expertise through the results of their work. Later on, in 2014 a science historian Lawrence Principe admired their efforts and exclaimed that they were amazingly good experimentalists.
Turning Lead into Gold
Glenn T. Seaborg from the more modern times and a distinguished scientist of the 20th century. Seaborg had a crazy vision that was attempted by him in 1980 of turning lead into gold. He was far from being a chemist but as mentioned above one of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th century.
Going back to one of his discoveries in 1941 he led a team that discovered the element Plutonium. On the discovery, it was pursued by the United States to use it in an atomic bomb project. Later on, it became a top-secret Manhattan project on which Seaborg also worked. While there were other scientists also on the project Seaborg strongly recommended for a public demonstration of the explosives to merely show it to Japan.
In his lifetime he helped with the discovery of ten elements and later received a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1951. He also discovered and helped isolate over 100 isotopes, one of the noteworthy ones being the Iodine-131 that can help cure a person with thyroid disease or on the least help extent a person’s life with the same disease.
So in 1980, Seaborg with a group of other scientists used a particle accelerator to propel beams of neon nuclei and carbon at light speed into the foils of heavy metal – Bismuth. While hey had planned Lead they used Bismuth as it is easier to isolate gold from Bismuth than from the Lead. But in reality,
producing gold from Lead is equally difficult. Well, the resultant of this rifling through the carnage of high-speed collision between neon, carbon, and bismuth they did make some isotopes of gold.
It was later on estimated by Seaborg that the cost of producing gold with such an experiment will be more than a quadrillion dollars per ounce. It was clearly a mistake as the going rate of gold in 1980 was about $590 an ounce. But despite all the costs incurred and thousands of years of trying has resulted in making gold from some other element.