Albertus Magnus, Bishop of Ratisbon, became interested in alchemy and is credited with some extraordinary accomplishments, including the invention of the pistol and the cannon. Albertus is said to be one of those magi who actually achieved the transmutation of base metals into gold by means of the philosopher's stone. In addition, some said that he was able to exert control over atmospheric conditions, once even transforming a cold winter day into a pleasant summer afternoon so he and his guests could dine comfortably outside. A prolific writer, Albertus produced 21 volumes containing directions for the neophyte-practicing alchemist. Certain witnesses to his laboratory credited him with the creation of an automaton that performed menial tasks and was capable of intelligent speech. The term "Magnus" (great) usually ascribed to him was not awarded to him as a result of his many accomplishments, but is simply the Latin equivalent of his family name, de Groot.
Born at Larvingen on the Danube in circa 1193, Albertus was thought as a child to be quite stupid, capable, it seemed, of understanding only basic religious ideals, rather than any kind of complex study. Then one night the boy claimed to have received a visitation from the Blessed Virgin, and his intelligence quotient soared thereafter. Feeling obliged to devote his life to the clergy when he completed his studies, Albertus did so well in the clerical profession that he was made Bishop of Ratisbon. He held the position only a brief time before he resigned and announced that he would devote his intellect and his energy to science.
Albertus's scientific discoveries and his studies in alchemy and magic were always conducted with complete loyalty to the church. In his estimation, magic should be used only for good, and from the modern perspective, Albertus was not so much an alchemist as he was one of the most brilliant of the early experimental chemists. It remains a matter of conjecture whether or not Albertus really did accomplish
Ever since he left the clergy, Albertus had lived in pleasant seclusion in his estate near Cologne. As he grew older, it is said that the dullness of mind that had characterized his youth returned, and Albertus Magnus died in relative obscurity.