Article ID: CBB000932728

An Alchemist or Swindler? The Case of Zbigniew Dunikowski (2009)


Lotysz, Slawomir (Author)

Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki
Volume: 54, no. 2
Issue: 2
Pages: 63-82

Publication Date: 2009
Edition Details: [Translated title.] In Polish.
Language: Polish

In early 1930s the newspapers and street journals in Europe and the United States were frequently reporting on a case of Zbigniew Dunikowski, a Polish engineer, who claimed to be in possession of a secret formula allowing production of gold from ordinary sand and rocks. He believed that most of those materials contain some particles of gold. For the precious metal however, it takes millions of years to precipitate into the ledges that could be mined. His method was based on a conviction, that the process can be accelerated. Although he was nicknamed 'Polish alchemist' very soon, his vain promises attracted attention of financiers and even some European political leaders. After few years of futile experiments, he was sued by his impatient financial backers, and arrested. While in detention, he was allowed to make the last attempt to produce gold and regain his repute and freedom. When this attempt failed, the judge sentenced him for two years in prison and ordered him to repay some 3 million francs ($100,000) to his investors. He was also fined with ... 100 francs fine (some 4 dollars). It can not be definitively stated, whether Dunikowski was truly convicted that his formula for making gold could have been working or he acted as a swindler from the very beginning. He exclaimed that the accusation of fraud was caused by bankers, who would never let his method to undermine the status quo of world's economy. The experiments conducted in Ecole Centrale in Paris during his trial, were assisted by several eminent French scientist. But although the judge sentenced, that Dunikowki's 'secret process for turning sand into gold is an impracticable combination of absurdities and contradictions', Polish engineer was still able to find other backers after being released from French prison. We find the traces of his further activity in Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Philippines. Finally, in early 1950s he ended his journey in the United States as a political refugee.


Description Dunikowski claimed to be able to produce gold from ordinary sand and rocks.

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Authors & Contributors
López Pérez, Miguel
Martelli, Matteo
Malcolm, Noel
Principe, Lawrence M.
Karpenko, Vladimír
Newman, William Royall
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Azogue: Revista Electrónica Dedicada al Estudio Histórico-Crítico de la Alquimia
Substantia: An International Journal of the History of Chemistry
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Technai, An International Journal for Ancient Science and Technology
Hirmer Verlag
Deceptions; hoaxes; frauds
Metals and metallic compounds
Science and art
Boyle, Robert
Borri, Giuseppe Francesco
Paracelsus, Theophrast von Hohenheim
Lastanosa, Vincencio Juan de
Scot, Michael
Olivares, Gaspar de Guzmán
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
Early modern
18th century
Naples (Italy)

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