Reading Comprehension 12

1. READ TEXT QUICKLY AND SIGN DIFFICULT WORDS

Although its purpose and techniques were often magical, alchemy was, in many ways, the predecessor of the modern science of chemistry. The fundamental premise of alchemy derived from the best philosophical dogma and scientific practice of the time, and the majority of educated  persons between 1400 and 1600 believed that alchemy had great merit.

The earliest authentic works on European alchemy are those of the English monk Roger Bacon and the German philosopher St. Albertus Magnus. In their treatises they maintained that gold was the perfect metal and that inferior metals such as lead and mercury were removed by various degrees of imperfection from gold. They further asserted that these base metals could be transmuted to gold by blending them with a substance more perfect than gold. This elusive substance was referred to as the “philosopher’s stone.”  The process was called transmutation.

Most of the early alchemists were artisans who were accustomed to keeping trade secrets and often resorted to cryptic terminology to record the progress of their work. The term sun was used for gold, moon for silver, and the five known planets for base metals. This convention of substituting symbolic language attracted some mystical philosophers who compared the search for the perfect metal with the struggle of humankind for the perfection of the soul. The philosophers began to use the artisan’s terms in the mystical literature that they produced. Thus, by the fourteenth century, alchemy had developed two distinct groups of practitioners-the laboratory alchemist and the literary alchemist. Both groups of alchemists continued to work throughout the history of alchemy; but, of course, it was the literary alchemist who was more likely to produce a written record; therefore, much of what is known about the science of alchemy is derived from philosophers rather than from the alchemists who labored in laboratories.

Despite centuries of experimentation, laboratory alchemists failed to produce gold from other materials. However, they gained wide knowledge of chemical substances, discovered chemical properties, and invented many of the tools and techniques that are used by chemist today. Many laboratory alchemists earnestly devoted themselves to the scientific discovery of new compounds and reactions and, therefore, must be considered the legitimate forefathers of modern chemistry. They continued to call themselves alchemists, but they were becoming true chemists.

2. NEW VOCABULARY WITH THEIR MEANING

  • Magical : of or relating to magic.
  • Alchemy : a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in theMiddleAges and the Renaissance and concerned principally withdiscoveringmethods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with findingauniversal solvent and an elixir of life.
  • Predecessor : a person who precedes another in an office, position, etc.
  • Merit : claim to respect and praise; excellence; worth.
  • Monk : (in Christianity) a man who has withdrawn from the world forreligiousreasons, especially as a member of an order of cenobites livingaccording toa particular rule and under vows of poverty, chastity, andobedience.
  • Treatises : a formal and systematic exposition in writing of the principles of asubject,generally longer and more detailed than an essay.
  • Maintained : to keep in existence or continuance; preserve; retain
  • Lead : Chemistry. a heavy, comparatively soft, malleable, bluish-graymetal,sometimes found in its natural state but usually combined as asulfide,especially in galena. Symbol: Pb; atomic weight: 207.19; atomicnumber: 82;specific gravity: 11.34 at 20°C.
  • Mercury : Chemistry. a heavy, silver-white, highly toxic metallic element, theonly onethat is liquid at room temperature; quicksilver: used inbarometers, thermometers,pesticides, pharmaceutical preparations,reflecting surfaces of mirrors, and dentalfillings, in certain switches,lamps, and other electric apparatus, and as a laboratorycatalyst.Symbol: Hg; atomic weight: 200.59; atomic number: 80; specificgravity:13.546 at 20°C; freezing point: −38.9°C; boiling point:357°C.
  • Imperfection : an imperfect detail; flaw
  • Asserted : resting on a statement or claim unsupported by evidence or proof
  • Transmuted : to change from one nature, substance, form, or condition intoanother;transform.
  • Elusive : eluding or failing to allow for or accommodate a clear perceptionorcomplete mental grasp; hard to express or define
  • Resorted : to sort or arrange (cards, papers, etc.) again.
  • Cryptic : mysterious in meaning; puzzling; ambiguous
  • Mystical : mystic; of or relating to supernatural agencies, affairs, occurrences, etc.
  • Substances : that of which a thing consists; physical matter or material
  • Compounds : composed of two or more parts, elements, or ingredients
  • Forefathers : an ancestor.

3. THE IDEAS OF EACH PARAGRAPH

  • Paragraph one : Alchemy was the predecessor of the modern science of chemistry. The fundamental premise of alchemy derived from the best philosophical dogma and scientific practice of the time, and the majority of educated  persons between 1400 and 1600 believed that alchemy had great merit.
  • Paragraph two : The earliest authentic works on European alchemy are those of the English monk Roger Bacon and the German philosopher St. Albertus Magnus. In their treatises they maintained that gold was the perfect metal and that inferior metals such as lead and mercury were removed by various degrees of imperfection from gold.
  • Paragraph three : Most of the early alchemists were artisans who were accustomed to keeping trade secrets and often resorted to cryptic terminology to record the progress of their work. This convention of substituting symbolic language attracted some mystical philosophers who compared the search for the perfect metal with the struggle of humankind for the perfection of the soul. By the fourteenth century, alchemy had developed two distinct groups of practitioners-the laboratory alchemist and the literary alchemist.
  • Paragraph four : The laboratory alchemists failed to produce gold from other materials. However, they gained wide knowledge of chemical substances, discovered chemical properties, and invented many of the tools and techniques that are used by chemist today.

4. ANSWER FROM THE QUESTIONS GIVEN

1. Which of the following is the main point of the passage?

  • A. They were both laboratory and literary alchemists.
  • B. Base metals can be transmuted to gold by blending them with a substance more perfect than gold.
  • C. Roger Bacon and St. Albertus Magnus wrote about alchemy
  • D. Alchemy was the predecessor of modern chemistry.

2. The word authentic in paragraph 2 could best be replaced by ?

  • A. Valuable
  • B. Genuine
  • C. Complete
  • D. Comprehensible

3. According to the alchemists, what is the difference between base metals and gold?

  • A. Perfection
  • B. Chemical content
  • C. Temperature
  • D. Weight

4. According to the passage, what is the “philosopher’s stone”?

  • A. Lead that was mixed with gold
  • B. An element that was never found
  • C. Another name for alchemy
  • D. A base metal

5. The word cryptic in paragraph 3 could best be replaced by which of the following?

  • A. Scholarly
  • B. Secret
  • C. Foreign
  • D. Precise

6. Why did the early alchemists use the terns sun and moon?

  • A. To keep the work secret
  • B. To make the work more literary
  • C. To attract philosophers
  • D. To produce a written record

7. Who were the first alchemists?

  • A. Chemists
  • B. Writer
  • C. Artisans
  • D. Linguists

8. In paragraph 3, the author suggests that we know about the history of alchemy because ?

  • A. The laboratory alchemists kept secret notes
  • B. The literary alchemists recorded it in writing
  • C. The mystical philosophers were not able to hide the secret of alchemy
  • D. The historians were able to interpret the secret writings of the alchemists

9. Which of the following statements would the author most probably agree?

  • A. Alchemy must be considered a complete failure.
  • B. Some very important scientific discoveries were made by alchemists.
  • C. Most educated people dismissed alchemy during the time that it was practiced.
  • D. The literary alchemists were more important than the laboratory alchemists.

5. SUMMARY OF THE PASSAGE

Alchemy was the predecessor of the modern science of chemistry. The fundamental premise of alchemy derived from the best philosophical dogma and scientific practice of the time, and the majority of educated  persons between 1400 and 1600 believed that alchemy had great merit. Most of the early alchemists were artisans who were accustomed to keeping trade secrets and often resorted to cryptic terminology to record the progress of their work. This convention of substituting symbolic language attracted some mystical philosophers who compared the search for the perfect metal with the struggle of humankind for the perfection of the soul. By the fourteenth century, alchemy had developed two distinct groups of practitioners-the laboratory alchemist and the literary alchemist.

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