Dalton, Thomas (ca. 1450)
The history of this alchemist is veiled in obscurity, but he appears
to have lived about the middle of the fifteenth century.
Since he is mentioned in the Ordinall of Alchimy by Thomas
Norton, who died in 1477, it is likely that he studied alchemy
with, or at least was friends with, Norton.
Dalton was a churchman, resident at an abbey in Gloucester,
and it is believed that he was once brought before King Edward
IV, and charged with the secret practice of magic, in those days
a capital crime. His accuser was one Debois, to whom Dalton
had at one time been chaplain; Debois affirmed on oath that
he had seen the alchemist create a thousand pounds of pure
gold in a day. Dalton reminded his accuser that he had sworn
never to reveal this or any such facts. Debois acknowledged his
breach of trust, but added that he was acting for the good of the
The alchemist then addressed the king, telling him that he
had been given the power of projection by a certain canon of
Litchfield, and that since then he had been in such a constant
state of trepidation that he had ultimately destroyed the precious
gift. Edward granted him his freedom, and gave him
money for his journey home.
On his way there he was seized by Thomas Herbert, who had
heard of the accusation brought against the churchman and
was naturally inquisitive. Herbert carried his victim to the castle
of Gloucester, and, incarcerating him there, tried every means
to make him disclose the secret. His efforts were in vain, however,
and Dalton was condemned to death by his persecutor.
When he was brought out to be beheaded in the courtyard
of the castle, he placed his head on the block and cried to God
to receive his soul. He asked the executioner to strike speedily,
but the axe was barely raised when Herbert sprang forward to
avert it, declaring that he dared not shed innocent blood. The
projected execution was no more than a plot conceived by Herbert
to make the alchemist confess all when his life was at stake.
Since the plan failed, Dalton was allowed to go free. He returned
to his abbey in Gloucestershire and lived quietly for the
rest of his days.