Chemistry – ancient era to the Middle Ages
Interestingly, the world’s first known chemist was a woman. A cuneiform tablet from the second millennium B.C. reveals that a perfumer and palace head by the name of Tapputi infused the essences of flowers and other aromatic sources. Then she added water and then sent them back to the still (a distilling apparatus) several times until she arrived at her desired resulting concoction. Her procedure is also one of the first and earliest recorded incidences of distillation.
The ancient Egyptians were utilizing chemistry in many varied ways including metallurgy, fermenting and so much more. By the Middle Ages, Arabs and Europeans, in particular, had been practicing alchemy. Alchemy is now an antiquated science that involves an attempt to turn base metals into precious metals like gold and silver. You could say that alchemy was a forerunner of modern chemistry. It had become a vital part of understanding how metals and ores could be utilized and manipulated.
Modern chemistry and beyond
Starting in the 17th and 18th century the modern scientific approach to chemistry began to form and flourish in Europe with Robert Boyle. Many scientific discoveries during this period were spearheaded by Joseph Priestley, C.W. Scheele, Nicholas LeBlanc, Antoine Lavoisier (who is sometimes regarded as the “Father of Modern Chemistry”), Alessandro Volta and many others, opened new doors to our understanding of chemistry.
The introduction of the newer chemical elements further heightened our knowledge in this scientific field and these would apply (and continue to apply) into our every day lives. It culminated in the development of the first periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleev in the mid-1800s. From the mid-19th and 20th century and beyond chemistry has become indispensable.
Since then chemistry has greatly advanced by leaps and bounds. This particular field of science yielded many branches that include (but are not limited to):
- analytical chemistry
- chemical engineering
- environmental chemistry
- food chemistry
- general chemistry
- medicinal chemistry
- nuclear chemistry
- physical chemistry
… and so much more.
Reading about the history of chemistry is a key to understanding our modern world. Chemists have been able to take the raw materials of the earth and shape them into the material world around us. Without chemistry, there would be no cars, airplanes, pharmaceuticals, synthetics and much more.
Here is a great list of links on the chemical history from none other than the Chemical Heritage Foundation- read through these pages and the bios of some of the great pioneers.
History of Chemistry