Brief Historical Development and Contributions of Chemistry for Modern Civilization

Topics: Chemistry, Chemical reaction, Atom Pages: 12 (4492 words) Published: November 3, 2006
Brief Historical Development and Contributions of Chemistry for Modern Civilization

Introduction: As defined by Oxford Dictionary, Chemistry is the scientific study of the structure of substances, how they react when combined or in contact with one another and how they behave under different conditions . In other words, Chemistry is the study of the materials and substances of the world in which we live. The materials, which make up the earth, sea and air, are called raw materials. These include many importance natural resources like ores, rocks, coal, and gas. According to me, Chemistry is the study of the composition and properties of matter. Chemistry answers questions like, What kind of stuff is this sample made of? What does the sample look like on a molecular scale? How does the structure of the material determine its properties? How do the properties of the material change when I increase temperature, or pressure, or some other environmental variable? Chemistry is the study of the reactivity of substances. One material can be changed into another by a chemical reaction. A complex substance can by made from simpler ones. Chemical compounds can break down into simpler substances. Fuels burn, food cooks, leaves turn in the fall, cells grow, medicines cure. Chemistry is concerned with the essential processes that make these changes happen.

Brief Historical Development: Chemistry plays an important part in all of the other natural sciences, basic and applied. From the earliest recorded times, humans have observed chemical changes and have speculated as to their causes. By following the history of these observations and speculations, the gradual evolution of the ideas and concepts that have led to the modern science of chemistry can be traced.

The first known chemical processes were carried out by the artisans of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. At first the smiths of these lands worked with native metals such as gold or copper, which sometimes occur in nature in a pure state, but they quickly learned how to smelt metallic ores (primarily metallic oxides and sulfides) by heating them with wood or charcoal to obtain the metals. The progressive use of copper, bronze, and iron gave rise to the names that have been applied to the corresponding ages by archaeologists. Most of these craftspeople were employed in temples and palaces, making luxury goods for priests and nobles. In the temples, the priests especially had time to speculate on the origin of the changes they saw in the world about them. Their theories often involved magic, but they also developed astronomical, mathematical, and cosmological ideas, which they used in attempts to explain some of the changes that are now considered chemical. The first culture to consider these ideas scientifically was that of the Greeks. From the time of Thales, about 600 BC, Greek philosophers were making logical speculations about the physical world rather than relying on myth to explain phenomena. Thales himself assumed that all matter was derived from water, which could solidify to earth or evaporate to air. His successors expanded this theory into the idea that four elements composed the world: earth, water, air, and fire. Democritus thought that these elements were composed of atoms, minute particles moving in a vacuum. Others, especially Aristotle, believed that the elements formed a continuum of mass and therefore a vacuum could not exist. The atomic idea quickly lost ground among the Greeks, but it was never entirely forgotten. When it was revived during the Renaissance, it formed the basis of modern atomic theory. Aristotle became the most influential of the Greek philosophers, and his ideas dominated science for nearly two millennia after his death in 323 BC. He believed that four qualities were found in nature: heat, cold, moisture, and dryness. The four elements were each composed of pairs of these qualities; for example, fire was hot and dry, water was cold and...
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