At least a year ago, I remember reading an online short story which was mostly about a conversation between the narrator and an alchemist. The alchemist described the difficulties of alchemy's search for the philosopher's stone; the primary complication was the fact that, in order to make new discoveries, you had to know every piece of information about alchemy that existed at the time.
This meant that, as the field expanded, there was more and more study required to get to the point where one could progress the field. Eventually this led to the scenario in the story's present, where nearly an entire lifetime's worth of study is required, and the discoveries of contemporary alchemists are only made in their last few breaths. There was more to this story than that, and I think I remember something about writing textbooks being important, but it was this mechanic that I remember most strongly.
I haven't been able to find this story again, so any help finding it would be appreciated.