Zoe Screti

Zoe Screti

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: The relationship between religious reform and alchemy in England, 1450-1640
SupervisorDr Jonathan Willis and Dr Margaret Small
PhD History


  • BA History (1:1)
  • MA Early Modern History (Distinction)


Having undertaken my BA and MA at Birmingham, I began my PhD in 2018. My primary research interest is alchemy in Early Modern England but I have further interests in disability in Early Modern England, my undergraduate and MA theses being centred on court fools and the experiences of the intellectually disabled in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Aside from my studies, I have organised a number of conferences, notably the CREMS Annual Conference (2018), EMREM’s Annual Symposiums (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), and the BSHS Postgraduate Conference (2022). I have also undertaken work as both a student ambassador and a student representative, as well as acting as the CREMS Communications Administrator between 2018 and 2022. I am currently the Postgraduate Officer on the council of the British Society for the History of Science and am also the Lead Editor for research articles at the Modern History Review. In 2020, I was awarded the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry's New Scholar award.


Seminar tutor:

  • Reformation, Rebellion, and Revolution: The Making of the Modern World, 1500-1800


My research considers the interplay between the Reformation and alchemy in early modern England. My doctoral thesis argues that the Reformation played a key role in shaping English alchemy. Alchemists engaged continuously with intricate details of Reformed theology, with religion being essential for the formation of alchemical theories such as the transformation of corporeal matter, the restoration of corrupt substances to prelapsarian purity, and the relationship between God and nature. Recent historians of alchemy, however, seldom accept religious reform as a driver of change. My thesis offers the first study of the relationship between the English Reformation and alchemy. It demonstrates that neither alchemy nor the Reformation were monolithic but rather continually reshaped one another in a lively and symbiotic relationship. Through an in-depth analysis of previously unstudied manuscripts written in multiple languages, I uncover previously unknown or understudied figures and reveal that the Reformation was fundamental in shaping their alchemical thought. I question how these alchemists made sense of alchemical texts by uniting their spiritual beliefs and exegetical methods with the alchemical tradition, and further explore how these individuals responded to broader currents in socio-cultural and geo-political thought and provided a catalyst for debate in other fields of discourse.

Other activities

Research Papers:

  • ‘The begynyng and endyng ys all one: Creation, Death, and Resurrection in Early Modern English Alchemical Treatises’, EMPHASIS Seminar Series, Birkbeck, University of London (November, 2021)
  • ‘Alchemical Theorick and Christian Theology: The Relationship Between Alchemical Philosophy and Christian Theology in England, 1450-1640’, AD HOC, University of Cambridge (November, 2021)
  • ‘God maketh it sensible To some Elect, to others he doth it denay: The Impact of Changing Soteriological Belief on Alchemical Philosophy in England, 1300-1600’, Reformation Studies Colloquium, University of Birmingham (September, 2021)
  • ‘Collecting and Collating: What can we Learn from Early Modern Alchemical Composite Manuscripts’, BSHS Conference 2021, University of Toronto (July, 2021)
  • ‘Collecting and Collating: The Emergence of Alchemical Composite Manuscripts in Early Modern England’, The Applied Arts of Alchemy Conference, The Science History Institute (May, 2021)
  • ‘The Alchemical Window in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster: The Changing Identity of “The Alchemist” in Early Modern England’, Created Identities Conference, University of Nottingham (September, 2020)
  • ‘Alchemy in England, 1550-1640: A Network Analysis’, Swansea MEMO Symposium by the Sea: Magic, Alchemy, and Cosmology, Swansea University (June, 2019)
  • ‘A Window into the Past: Alchemy in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster’, EMREM 9th Annual Symposium: Powerful Places, University of Birmingham (May, 2019)

Membership of Organisations:

  • Early Career Member of the Royal Historical Society
  • Member of the British Society for the History of Science
  • Member of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
  • Member of the Renaissance Society of America


  • 2020 - Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry's New Scholar Award
  • 2019- Horizon Award for Postgraduate Teachers, HEFi