Evolution of Chemistry

By: Aamarpali Puri

Chemistry is the branch of science which came into existence since prehistoric times. It is sometimes called “The Central Science” because it connects natural sciences like physics, geology and biology. It has a long timeline. So it is divided into four categories:


In the prehistoric times or in the beginning of the Christian era, mysticism and superstition prevailed over scientific thoughts. It was believed by the people that natural processes were controlled by spirits and they relied upon magic to persuade spirits to help them. During this time period, Aristotle (384-322BC) declared the existence of only four elements: fire, air, water and earth. He also said the all the matters are made up of these four elements and matter had four properties: hot, cold, dry and wet.


The beginning of the Christian era/ end of 17th century, lead to the advent of Alchemy. Alchemy allows one to observe extraordinary chemical operations at a more rapid pace. Alchemy refers to both the investigation of nature and early philosophical and spiritual discipline that combined chemistry with metal work. The main goal of Alchemy was to gain wealth, health and immortality. Alchemists attempted to transmute cheap metals to gold with the help of a substance called the Philosopher’s Stone. Alchemists’ efforts failed and transmutation of cheap metals to gold never happened. The Philosopher’s Stone was central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss also termed as Elixir of Life or Elixir of Immortality. It was supposed to be a chemical when drunk from certain cup at a certain time would enable people to live longer and cure all ailments, but this Elixir of Life never happened.  Alchemists work helped lay the groundwork for modern chemistry and medicine. Their work contributed to modern day chemical industries: basic metallurgy, metalworking, the production of inks, dyes, paints, cosmetics, liquor industry and leather tanning.


It was in mid 19th century that a book written by Robert Boyle, “The Skeptical Chemist” led to beginning of Traditional Chemistry. He used his book in explaining his hypothesis and to reject Aristotle’s four elements theory. He recognized that certain substances decompose into other substances (water decomposes into hydrogen and oxygen when it is electrically charged. He labeled these fundamental substances as elements. Charles Coulomb gave Coulomb’s Law and. Johann J Beecher gave Phlogiston Theory (Phlogiston is a substance added from air to the flame of burning object). It was disapproved by Antoine Lavoisier. John published his Atomic Theory which states that all matter is composed of atoms, which are small and invisible to naked eyes. Early chemists were also Alchemists.


20th Century was the age of Modern Chemistry. Antoine Lavoisier in an effort to disapprove Phlogiston theory discovered oxygen. He lead to the advent of Modern Chemistry and hence was called the “Father of Modern Chemistry”. In this duration electron, proton and neutrons were discovered and there masses were calculated. First vacuum tube was created. Radioactive Elements, Radioactivity and Types of Radioactivity got discovered. The current model of atomic structure is the Quantum Mechanical Model.

Some new research:

Researchers from the University of Connecticut recently unveiled their latest inventions, which is a long lasting LED light bulb [3} that makes use of salmon DNA.  

Recently Lockheed Martin presented the improved version of its exoskeleton {4} called MKII. The new model boats better protection and can be adjusted much easier that the previous device. The person equipped with the new exoskeleton is stronger and faster. A soldier wearing the power-suit will be able to carry a heavy load of up to 200lbs across a rough area at a speed of about 7mph.

Latent fingerprints {5} provide a potential route to the secure, high throughput and non-invasive detection of drugs of abuse.

Green chemistry principles could make synthesizing the frontline anti malarial {6} drug artemisinin both cleaner and cheaper, industry–academia collaboration suggests.



  1. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/chemistry/chem-c2507/navbar/chemhist.html
  2. https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/stars-and-elements/other-material3/a/from-alchemy-to-chemistry
  3. http://www.infoniac.com/science/latest-invention-led-light-bulbs-that-makes-use-of-salmon-dna.html
  4. http://www.infoniac.com/breaking/top-10-latest-inventions-of-october-2010.html.
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25977942.
  6. http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2015/05/malaria-drug-artemisinin-could-cash-green-chemistry

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