Before the advent of organized chemistry, alchemists were searching for a "philosopher's stone," a hypothetical substance which was reputed to be able to turn basic metals into the precious metal, gold. While their crusade was never rewarded with success, they laid the foundation for the chemical study of today. In this field a catalyst for a desirable chemical reaction has turned out to be a true "philosopher's stone." Catalysts have played an important part in the production of substitutes which are very useful in today's limited markets.
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Abbott, Harold E.
"Catalysis And The Chemical Industry,"
Field and Laboratory: Vol. 11
Available at: https://scholar.smu.edu/fieldandlab/vol11/iss1/1