Zosimos of Panopolis, a 5th century Greek historian, wrote about Mary in his books on alchemy and described several of her experiments and instruments used. Zosimos believed that alchemy had been introduced to the world by the Jews and called Mary “one of the sages” in the field.
According to Zosimos the Jewish people had acquired the secret of alchemy and gold-making through "dishonest means" from the Egyptians. There is much written on this topic that includes biblical references and names (too much to discuss here), but if interested, click the source link below on the history of alchemy.
Mary was a teacher and follower of Democritus, a Greek philosopher considered by some to be the “father of modern science” and known for his "formulation of an atomic theory of the universe." Mary was particularly interested in a purple pigment (caput mortuum) she had concocted and apparently spent a lot of time studying this substance. She was known by many as “Mary the Prophetess,” whereas in the middle east the Arabs dubbed her the “Daughter of Plato." Historically, she is one of history's 52 most famous alchemists.
Alchemical operations, such a leukosis (whitening) and xanthosis (yellowing), were all part of Mary's experience as an alchemist, and she is credited with inventing (or at least influencing) the devices used in processes. Writings mention the use of acid salt, other acids, and the making of gold from plants, and an alchemical precept called “the union of opposites.” As such, Mary has been unofficially credited with discovering hydrochloric acid . . . and the following.
Two devices credited (based on writings) to Mary:
This device was (and still is) used to collect substances purified by distillation. Mary was the first to describe its use.
Used to collect vapors and heat substances for alchemy.
Mary’s one undisputed invention:
- Bain-marie (or Mary’s Bath):
Can also be used to cook food.