Here’s a long doc on the history of chemistry, which is surprisingly interesting.
The first episode covers the following:
- Paracelsus (1493 – 1541), a doctor who used alchemy to treat disease
- Henning Brandt‘s (1630 – 1710) attempt to extract gold from urine, which led to the first time someone discovered an element: Phosphorus, which he named from the Greek word for “light-bearing” or “light-bearer.”
- Robert Boyle‘s (1627 – 1691) use of phosphorus to create the match, i.e. fire on demand.
He’s also credited as being the first chemist, i.e., using science to study chemical reactions.
- Johann Becher (1635 – 1682), who developed the theory of phlogiston theory of combustion: the precursor to the discovery of oxygen
- Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810), the first person to discover an elemental gas: hydrogen (which he mistook for the mysterious phlogiston)
Also discovered that water wasn’t an element, but a compound (which flew in the face of the idea that everything was made up of the elements water, earth, air and fire)
- Joseph Priestly‘s (1733 – 1804) discovery of carbon dioxide (when he was researching gases that were produced during the production of beer. In related history: modern statistics comes from ‘Student’, or William Sealy Gosset, an employee of the Guinness brewery)
Then his discovery of oxygen from burning mercuric oxide (note: this is one of the most significant discoveries in the history of chemistry/science)
- Antoine Lavoisier (1743 – 1794; the father of modern chemistry) who is responsible for correctly identifying what Priestly created: oxygen. He destroyed the theory of phlogiston.
He is also the first to attempt to make a list of elements (the precursor to the periodic table)
He was executed during the French revolution 😦
- Humphry Davy‘s (1778 – 1829) discovery that the production of electricity from voltaic batteries came from chemical reactions, and then using that idea to discover potassium from potash (the reverse: using electricity to produce chemical reactions).
He also discovered other alkali and alkaline earth metals, and confirmed that chlorine and iodine were elements.