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History of Chemistry

Lesson: 04

Unit: 0
State Content Standard: Investigation & Experimentation

Lesson Title: History of Chemistry
Textbook page: Not in textbook
Chemistry Passport: Page 18


1. Students know the four eras of chemistry.

Lesson Content

Timeline of Chemistry.PNG

Chemistry has its roots with the medieval practice of alchemy, which had two goals: to try to turn substances into gold and to prolong life.

According to The Story of Alchemy and the Beginnings of Chemistry by Muir in 1902, "No branch of science has had so long a period of incubation as chemistry." In fact, the history of chemistry begins during the prehistoric times with the desire to understand and explain fire.<ref>Columbia</ref> For ease of understanding the long duration of history behind chemistry, historians tend to describe chemistry in terms of four major milestones: Ancient Greek society, dark ages (Alchemy), birth of chemistry (Early chemists), and modern chemistry.

Ancient Civilizations

Greek Society

The Ancient Greek philosophers greatly influenced the description of matter.


Main article: Democritus

Democritus (465 BC) was a student of Leucippus. Both men promoted the atomists perspective that the world is made of the atom and void. <ref>the atomists</ref> Unfortunately, most of what is known of this man is from secondhand reports. Some of the anecdotes are conflicting. <ref>Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy</ref>


Main article: Aristotle

In contrast to Democritus, Aristotle supported the Empedocles Theory that substances are made up of air, fire, earth, and water. <ref>Empedoclean Theory</ref> The Empedocles Theory remained the dominant theory for over 1000 years.

Middle Ages (Dark Ages)

While we tend to be focused on the western civilization, Baghdad and China are two places of interest in Alchemy during the 8th to 15th centuries. Records indicate early chemists published their work after the 17th century.


Further Readings

Birth of Chemistry (Early Chemists)

Lavoisier's Laboratory

Modern Chemistry

John Dalton

Further Reading


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