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Vendredi, 23 Décembre 2011 12:30

Best Discredited Substances

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Illustration: Daan Botlek

  • Phlogiston
    In 1667, German alchemist Johann Joachim Becher identified this as the essence of fire. It was supposedly contained in all combustible substances.
  • Miasma
    The Greeks were convinced that diseases like malaria were spread by bad smells, dubbed miasmas. Medieval Europeans combated them with incense.
  • Orgone
    In the 1940s, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich posited that this substance composed of sexual energy can be collected for medicinal purposes. If only.
  • Luminiferous ether
    Descartes asserted that light and gravity traveled through this “more subtle than air” medium. Disproved by Einstein’s theory of relativity.
  • Alkahest
    The 16th-century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus “discovered” this universal solvent. (Bonus misapprehension: The “philosopher’s stone” is made of alkahest.)


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