Cleopatra was one of alchemy’s founding scientists in the 3rd Century, possibly the 4th Century. Associated with the school of alchemy it's said, in Alexandria one would assume, Cleopatra took her work seriously as an alchemist, using apparatus for distillation and sublimation, and weights and measures in her experiments.
She is credited (as is Mary the Jewess) with inventing the Alembic, an early analytical tool used in chemistry - basically two vessels connected by a tube for distilling chemicals.
|Alembic used by Zosimos of Panopolis|
Cleopatra was one of four female alchemists to supposedly make the "Philosopher’s stone." The stone was a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold (i.e., chrysopoeia in Greek). Cleopatra is known for her writing of Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra, a single page document written on papyrus showing symbols and drawings with captions, all related to gold-making.
Chrysopoeia, the artificial production of gold, was the common goal sought by alchemists. In literature Chrysopoeia played out in the famous fairy tale Rumpelstilskin, whose antagonist spins straw into gold. Gold can in fact be produced artificially, it turns out, in nuclear reactors, but the production cost far outweighs the market price of gold.
|Illustrations of pseudo-Cleopatra's Chrysopoeia (Aurifaction, or Gold-making), Codex Marcianus|
Alchemy was a pseudo-science for the most part, but according to Google, it was the “medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter.” Repeated attempts were made “to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir,” or as Merriam-Webster describes, “a universal cure for disease . . . and means of indefinitely prolonging life.”