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Chemistry Timeline

Chronology of Major Events in Chemistry


Avogadro proposed that equal volumes of gases contain the same number of molecules.

Avogadro proposed that equal volumes of gases contain the same number of molecules.

Democritus (465 BC)
First to propose that matter exists in the form of particles. Coined the term 'atoms'.
"by convention bitter, by convention sweet, but in reality atoms and void"

Alchemists (~1000-1650)
Among other things, the alchemists sought a universal solvent, attempted to change lead and other metals into gold, and tried to discover an elixir which would prolong life. The alchemists learned how to use metallic compounds and plant-derived materials to treat diseases.

Oldest written description of lodestone used as a compass.

Boyle, Sir Robert (1637-1691)
Formulated the fundamental gas laws. First to propose the combination of small particles to form molecules. Differentiated between compounds and mixtures.

Torricelli, Evangelista (1643)
Invented the mercury barometer.

von Guericke, Otto (1645)
Constructed the first vacuum pump.

Bradley, James (1728)
Uses aberration of starlight to determine the speed of light to within 5%. accuracy.

Priestley, Joseph (1733-1804)
Discovered oxygen, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide. Proposed electrical inverse-square law (1767).

Scheele, C.W. (1742-1786)
Discovered chlorine, tartaric acid, metal oxidation, and sensitivity of silver compounds to light (photochemistry).

Le Blanc, Nicholas (1742-1806)
Invented process for making soda ash from sodium sulfate, limestone and coal.

Lavoisier, A.L. (1743-1794)
Discovered nitrogen. Described the composition of many organic compounds. Sometimes regarded as the Father of Chemistry.

Volta, A. (1745-1827)
Invented the electric battery.

Berthollet, C.L. (1748-1822)
Corrected Lavoiser’s theory of acids. Discovered bleaching ability of chlorine. Analyzed combining weights of atoms (stoichiometry).

Jenner, Edward (1749-1823)
Development of smallpox vaccine (1776).

Franklin, Benjamin (1752)
Demonstrated that lightning is electricity.

Dalton, John (1766-1844)
Proposed atomic theory based upon measurable masses (1807). Stated law of partial pressure of gases.

Avogadro, Amedeo (1776-1856)
Proposed principle that equal volumes of gases contain the same number of molecules.

Davy, Sir Humphry (1778-1829)
Laid foundation of electrochemistry. Studied electroysis of salts in water. Isolated sodium and potassium.

Gay-Lussac, J.L. (1778-1850)
Discovered boron and iodine. Discovered acid-base indicators (litmus). Improved method for making sulfuric acid. Researched behavior of gases.

Berzelius J.J. (1779-1850)
Classified minerals according to their chemical composition. Discovered and isolated many elements (Se, Th, Si, Ti, Zr). Coined the terms 'isomer' and 'catalyst'.

Coulomb, Charles (1795)
Introduced the inverse-square law of electrostatics.

Faraday, Michael (1791-1867)
Coined term 'electrolysis'. Developed theories of electrical and mechanical energy, corrosion, batteries, and electrometallurgy. Faraday was not a proponent of atomism.

Count Rumford (1798)
Thought that heat was a form of energy.

Wohler, F. (1800-1882)
First synthesis of an organic compound (urea, 1828).

Goodyear, Charles (1800-1860)
Discovered vulcanization of rubber (1844). Hancock in England made a parallel discovery.

Young, Thomas (1801)
Demonstrated the wave nature of light and the principle of interference.

Liebig, J. von (1803-1873)
Investigated photosynthesis reaction and soil chemistry. First proposed use of fertilizers. Discovered chloroform and cyanogen compounds.

Oersted, Hans (1820)
Observed that a current in a wire can deflect a compass needle - provided first concrete evidence of the connection between electricity and magnetism.

Graham, Thomas (1822-1869)
Studied diffusion of solutions through membranes. Established foundations of colloid chemistry.

Pasteur, Louis (1822-1895)
First recognition of bacteria as disease-causing agents. Developed field of immunochemistry. Introduced heat-sterilization of wine and milk (pasteurization). Saw optical isomers (enantiomers) in tartaric acid.

Sturgeon, William (1823)
Invented the electromagnet.

Carnot, Sadi (1824)
Analyzed heat engines.

Ohm, Simon (1826)
Stated law of electrical resistance.

Brown, Robert (1827)
Discovered Brownian motion.

Lister, Joseph (1827-1912)
Initiated use of antiseptics in surgery, e.g., phenols, carbolic acid, cresols.

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