History of Chemistry: Pt. 1

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.

About dontdontoperate

28 year old originally from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. H.B.Sc. from UofT with a major in chemistry and a double minor in philosophy and math. M.Sc. from UofT in physiology and neuroscience. Finished my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at McMaster in the fall of 2013.
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One Response to History of Chemistry: Pt. 1

  1. Pingback: History of Chemistry: Pt. 2 | Dontdontoperate's Blog

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