Nicolas Flamel, French alchemist, 14th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Nicolas Flamel (c 1330-1418), a Parisian scribe, is said to have written 'The Explication of the Hieroglyphic Figures' explaining some of the contents of a mysterious work called 'The Book of Abraham the Jew'. The contents of the book led him to develop a substance which he called 'Projection Powder', and he claimed that with the help of his wife Perrenelle, he achieved the transmutation of mercury into gold, a proces which requires the creation of the mythical Philosopher's Stone. Flamel used the wealth he acquired to help the poor. Even after his death it was rumoured that he was still alive. Flamel also makes an appearance in J K Rowling's 'Harry Potter' stories.