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When Victor is thirteen, he becomes fascinated with the work of Cornelius Agrippa (a Roman alchemist who attempted to turn tin into gold and men into lions). His father tells him that the book is pure trash; Victor does not heed him, however, since his father does not explain why the book is trash. The system of "science" that Agrippa propounds has long since been proven false; Victor, unaware of this, avidly reads all of Agrippa's works, as well as those of his contemporaries, Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. Victor shares their desire to penetrate the secrets of nature, to search for the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. The quest for the latter becomes his obsession. Though he acknowledges that such a discovery would bring one great wealth, what Victor really longs for is glory.