Decrypting the Code for an Alchemist’s Philosopher’s Stone

John Dee and his son Arthur Dee were 16th- and 17th-century alchemists. In 2018, Megan Piorko found some odd things in one of Arthur Dees’ notebooks in the archives of the British Library. There were several pages written in code, upside-down. Considering Dee’s subject matter, this must be his most important discoveries, or maybe formulas he wanted to keep secret.  

Could this code be solved? Piorko spent quite a bit of time trying to find the encryption key, which involved a lot of historical research for 17th-century coding practices. Ultimately, she presented the problem to the 2021 virtual HistoCrypt conference. Plenty of amateur cryptologists wanted to try it. Mathematician and noted cryptologist Richard Bean figured it out through a painfully convoluted process.

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The encoded passages are Dee’s “Philosopher’s Stone,” or a recipe for the elixir of life, which will be presented in a scientific paper some time in the future. Meanwhile, read about the process of getting a hundreds-of-years-old Latin scientific secret code decrypted at Atlas Obscura.

Source: neatorama

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