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By the end of this module, you will be able to:
  • Outline the historical development of chemistry
  • Provide examples of the importance of chemistry in everyday life
  • Describe the scientific method
  • Differentiate among hypotheses, theories, and laws
  • Provide examples illustrating macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic domains

Throughout human history, people have tried to convert matter into more useful forms. Our Stone Age ancestors chipped pieces of flint into useful tools and carved wood into statues and toys. These endeavors involved changing the shape of a substance without changing the substance itself. But as our knowledge increased, humans began to change the composition of the substances as well—clay was converted into pottery, hides were cured to make garments, copper ores were transformed into copper tools and weapons, and grain was made into bread.

Humans began to practice chemistry when they learned to control fire and use it to cook, make pottery, and smelt metals. Subsequently, they began to separate and use specific components of matter. A variety of drugs such as aloe, myrrh, and opium were isolated from plants. Dyes, such as indigo and Tyrian purple, were extracted from plant and animal matter. Metals were combined to form alloys—for example, copper and tin were mixed together to make bronze—and more elaborate smelting techniques produced iron. Alkalis were extracted from ashes, and soaps were prepared by combining these alkalis with fats. Alcohol was produced by fermentation and purified by distillation.

Attempts to understand the behavior of matter extend back for more than 2500 years. As early as the sixth century BC, Greek philosophers discussed a system in which water was the basis of all things. You may have heard of the Greek postulate that matter consists of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Subsequently, an amalgamation of chemical technologies and philosophical speculations were spread from Egypt, China, and the eastern Mediterranean by alchemists, who endeavored to transform “base metals” such as lead into “noble metals” like gold, and to create elixirs to cure disease and extend life ( [link] ).

A sketch depicts 4 people stirring and handling chemicals. The chemicals are held in a variety of barrels and large cylinders. Several of the containers are being heated over burning embers. A large stove in the laboratory is filled with burning embers. There is also a large chest in the corner that is producing steam.
This portrayal shows an alchemist’s workshop circa 1580. Although alchemy made some useful contributions to how to manipulate matter, it was not scientific by modern standards. (credit: Chemical Heritage Foundation)

From alchemy came the historical progressions that led to modern chemistry: the isolation of drugs from natural sources, metallurgy, and the dye industry. Today, chemistry continues to deepen our understanding and improve our ability to harness and control the behavior of matter. This effort has been so successful that many people do not realize either the central position of chemistry among the sciences or the importance and universality of chemistry in daily life.

Chemistry: the central science

Chemistry is sometimes referred to as “the central science” due to its interconnectedness with a vast array of other STEM disciplines (STEM stands for areas of study in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields). Chemistry and the language of chemists play vital roles in biology, medicine, materials science, forensics, environmental science, and many other fields ( [link] ). The basic principles of physics are essential for understanding many aspects of chemistry, and there is extensive overlap between many subdisciplines within the two fields, such as chemical physics and nuclear chemistry. Mathematics, computer science, and information theory provide important tools that help us calculate, interpret, describe, and generally make sense of the chemical world. Biology and chemistry converge in biochemistry, which is crucial to understanding the many complex factors and processes that keep living organisms (such as us) alive. Chemical engineering, materials science, and nanotechnology combine chemical principles and empirical findings to produce useful substances, ranging from gasoline to fabrics to electronics. Agriculture, food science, veterinary science, and brewing and wine making help provide sustenance in the form of food and drink to the world’s population. Medicine, pharmacology, biotechnology, and botany identify and produce substances that help keep us healthy. Environmental science, geology, oceanography, and atmospheric science incorporate many chemical ideas to help us better understand and protect our physical world. Chemical ideas are used to help understand the universe in astronomy and cosmology.

Questions & Answers

what is d meaning of organic chemistry
Elizabeth Reply
it's a compound that comprises of hydrocarbon
what iz alkanol
icha Reply
alkanol there are organic compounds with the functional group of ROH and relative molecular formula (CnH2n+1+OH)
ok tnk u
you are welcome
Sam. A
What's alkaline soil
Amoo Reply
a system in which only energy is transferred between the system and the surrounding is called?
Ani Reply
which Element exhibit diagonal relationship with aluminum
following processes: Solid phosphorus pentachloride decomposes to liquid phosphorus trichloride and chlorine gas b. Deep blue solid copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate is heated to drive off water vapor to form white solid copper(II) sulfate
Hisham Reply
How to know periodic table oftend
Ahmed Reply
u can know it through singing it as song it simple
how to get atomic number of an element
Ogunleye Reply
how do you solve the examples in a much more explanatory way
it seems by multiplying d number of d element by 2
E.g like carbon 6*2=12 so d atomic number is 12
The reaction of aceto nitrile with propane in the presence of the acid
Explain this paragraph in short
Manish Reply
What is solid state?
Manish Reply
What is chemical reaction
transforming reactants to product(s)
solid state is composed of tightly particles and it has a definite shape and volume
Example of Lewis acid
Chidera Reply
Example of Lewis acid
Anything with an empty orbital... the hydrogen ion is the most common example. BH3 is the typical example, but any metal in a coordination complex can be considered a Lewis acid.
okay thanks
aluminium and sulphur react to give aluminium sulfide.How many grams of Al are required to produce 100g of aluminium sulphide
Soni Reply
aluminium and sulphur react to give aluminium sulphide how many grams of Al are required to produce 100g of aluminium sulphide?
aluminium and sulphur react to give aluminium sulphide how many grams of Al are required to produce 100g of aluminium sulphide?
150 comes from?
thank you very much
molar mass of Al2S3
what's periodic table
Why can't atom be created or destroyed
Jacaranda Reply
matter simply converts to pure energy
that's nice
explain how to distinguish ethanol from a sample of ethanoic acid by chemical test
Alice Reply
explain how ethanol can be distinguished from ethanoic acid by chemical test
Using a suitable experiment, describe how diffusion occurs in gases.
Melody Reply
when the excited energy which are in gaseous state collides with another to liberate from one place to another
Practice Key Terms 8

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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