1.1 What is Chemistry?

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

1.1 What is Chemistry?

Lesson Objectives

  • Define the term “chemistry.”

  • Describe the activities of alchemists and how they contributed to the modern science of chemistry.

  • List some of the key scientists from the early history of chemistry along with their primary contributions to
    the field.

  • List various modern items that have been developed through the study of chemistry.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • chemistry: The science of the properties, reaction, composition, and structures of matter.

  • matter: Anything that has mass and takes up space.

  • alchemist: A practitioner of the Medieval science of alchemy, which aimed mainly to transform everyday
    metals into gold.

  • philosopher’s stone: A substance that could cause the transmutation of lead into gold.

A Brief History of Chemistry

What is Chemistry?

If we look up the word “chemistry” in the dictionary, we’ll find something like this: “The science of the com-
position, structure, properties, and reactions ofmatter, especially of atomic and molecular systems” (Free Online
Dictionary). This definition is accurate, but it does not give us a good picture of the scope of chemistry or any
practical aspects of the field.

Chemistry touches every area of our lives. The medicines we take, the food we eat, the clothes we wear –all these
materials and more are, in some way or another, a product of chemistry. Later on in this chapter, we will look in
detail at some of the ways that chemistry contributes to our lives.

Where Did Chemistry Come From?

Although the systematic study of chemistry is relatively new, chemical techniques have been used for thousands of
years. Some civilizations kept good records of these techniques, which give us direct information about what earlier
people knew. Fields of study such as archaeology provide additional information. Legends and folklore are also
useful tools to learn about the chemical knowledge of previous cultures.

Thousands of years ago, the ancient Egyptians used chemical practices to develop techniques for producing perfumes
and dyes. Studies of objects found in Egyptian tombs show that materials for coloring fabrics were known as far
back as 2600 B.C.

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