A brief History of Chemistry

Chemistry as we know it today originated from early studies of alchemy and magic. Similar to modern day chemists, alchemists tried to change a certain substance into another; in this case it is gold. Alchemists also searched for secrets to eternal life. Alchemy slowly started to reach its peak in the late 1400’s when people started to question and doubt the thoughts and theories of alchemy. Slowly, these scientists grew away from ideas of magic and became more dependant on what was facts, not theories based on superstitions. These scientists began recording and organizing their discoveries in books, which later would become the basis of chemistry.

Chemistry started to lift off once a British chemist known as Robert Boyle published his book The Sceptical Chymist. In this book, Boyle put down rules for a careful scientific investigation and he slowly proved how alchemy was just a myth. He provided clear and vivid details on how a pure element can not be split to form simpler substances. He also described how the four elements alchemists believed in could not explain the behavior of many substances on Earth. Slowly, alchemy started to die and people realized the reality of chemistry. They put aside their beliefs of magic and alchemic methods to focus more on purifying substances and investigating their many properties. Chemists started to become fascinated with chemical reactions and the composition of matter.

Today, there are 92 natural elements and 23 synthetic elements throughout the world. Elements are either metals or non-metals and have many other descriptions to classify them further in the periodic table. Each elements has their own one or two letter symbol which helps chemist from all over the world to classify them without misinterpretations of different languages. Every element has their own atomic number which symbolizes how many protons and neutrons are in the element’s nucleus.

Chemists also focus heavily on chemical reactions. Chemical reactions change the chemical make-up of different substances to break down substances into smaller more simpler parts, or even create more advanced and complex substances. In a chemical reaction, the substances that are present before the reaction starts are reactants. When the chemical reaction process is over, the final result of the mixing of the substances are the products. Chemical reactions may be very fast or even extremely slow; for example rusting. Catalysts are substances the speed up the process of chemical reactions. They can help manufacture many items including margarine and vegetable oils. There are many different types of chemical reactions today that are still unknown to us. This is what keeps chemistry a thriving subject for many scientists around the world.

Chemistry started from the ancient studies and theories of alchemists and magicians thousands of years ago. Still to this day there are many things we have yet to discover and learn more about through chemistry.