/trans'myooh tay"sheuhn, tranz'-/, n.1. the act or process of transmuting.2. the fact or state of being transmuted.3. change into another nature, substance, form, or condition.4. Biol. the transformation of one species into another. Cf. transformism.5. Physics. any process in which a nuclide is transformed into a different nuclide, usually one of a different element.6. Alchemy. the supposed conversion of base metals into metals of greater value, esp. into gold or silver.[1350-1400; ME transmutacio(u)n ( < OF transmutation) < L transmutation- (s. of transmutatio) a changing, shifting, equiv. to transmutat(us) (ptp. of transmutare to change) + -ion- -ION. See TRANSMUTE, -ATION]
* * *▪ physicsconversion of one chemical element into another. A transmutation entails a change in the structure of atomic nuclei and hence may be induced by a nuclear reaction (q.v.), such as neutron capture, or occur spontaneously by radioactive decay, such as alpha decay and beta decay (qq.v.). Transmutation of base metals (such as mercury, tin, copper, lead) into precious metals (gold, silver) was long attempted by alchemists, who had no concept of the atomic nature of matter. Their experimentation led to discoveries of many important chemical reactions, but chemical reactions are not capable of effecting the nuclear changes required for transmutation.
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