1.1 What is Chemistry?

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1.1. What is Chemistry? http://www.ck12.org

Farming and Gardening

Three of the most important requirements for crop growth are water, nutrient-rich soil, and protection from predators
such as insects. Chemistry has made major contributions in all three of these areas. Water purification uses chemical
and physical techniques to remove salt and harmful contaminants that could pollute the soil. Through chemical
analysis of soil, farmers can see what nutrients the soil is lacking so these nutrients can be added. In the spring,
grocery stores, hardware stores, and gardening centers have high stacks of bags containing fertilizers and weed
killers that farmers can then use to enrich the soil and keep unwanted plants from using up the limited water and
nutrients in the soil. These same stores also provide a number of chemical sprays or solid treatments to ward off
insects that might otherwise snack on the plants.


A wheat harvest in the Palouse region of

Health Care

Major contributions to health care have been made by chemistry. The development of new drugs involves chemical
analysis and the synthesis of new compounds. Practically all of the drugs that you might see advertised on television
were designed and created by chemists. Clinical laboratory tests for things like high cholesterol or diabetes use a
wide variety of analytical chemical techniques and instruments. Chemistry also contributes to the preparation and
use of surgical materials such as stitches, artificial skin, and sterile materials.

Laboratory tests that at one time were only available in hospitals can now be found in your local drug store because
of developments in chemistry. For example, you can test your blood glucose using a simple portable device that
runs a chemical test on a blood sample (Figure1.9). This allows a diabetic patient to monitor their blood glucose
more easily throughout the day, and regulate how much insulin to administer. Chemistry is also used to produce the
insulin drug and disposable syringe that administers the drug.

Lesson Summary

  • Chemistry has a long and interesting history.

  • All societies have used some facets of chemistry in the past, but it was only recently developed into a
    systematic field of science.

  • Although the alchemists never did achieve their goal of making gold from lead, they did give us some useful
    chemical tools. *Modern chemistry contributes to many areas of our lives, making them easier, safer, and

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