Origins of Modern Chemistry

How did we get from discovering fire to using nanotubes in labs?

The concept of atoms was first conceived in ancient Greece by a group of philosophers known as the atomists. In 330 BC, Aristotle opposed this theory. He was a proponent of the elemental theory, positing that all matter was composed of the elements earth, fire, water, and air. He even added an element, aether (or ether).

The elemental theory continued into the middle ages through the study of alchemy. Alchemists added sulfur, salt, and mercury to the list.

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Finally, in 1661, Robert Boyle published the book "The Sceptical Chymist", presenting his hypothesis of particles in motion and asserting that only experiments using the "scientific method" could be considered true.

Another milestone in chemistry was the discovery of electrochemistry. Alessandro Volta invented the first battery in 1800, using piles of copper and zinc discs. They were separated by cloth soaked in brine. When wires were attached to the top and bottom, electricity flowed through the wires.

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Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier established the Law of the Conservation of Mass, also called "Lavoisier's Law", in 1789. His book "Elementary Treatise of Chemistry" is considered the first modern chemistry textbook. It contained a list of elements, or substances that could not be broken down further, including oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, mercury, zinc, and sulfur.

Lavoisier, unfortunately, lost his head to the guillotine during the French Revolution, but not before beginning his own revolution in science and becoming the father of modern chemistry.


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