Existence of Fire
Arguably the first chemical reaction used in a controlled manner was fire. However, for millennia fire was simply a mystical force that could transform one substance into another while producing heat and light. Fire affected many aspects of early societies. These ranged from the simplest facets of everyday life, such as cooking and habitat lighting, to more advanced technologies, such as pottery, bricks, and melting of metals to make tools.
a. 2600 BC – The Rise of Metallurgy
It was fire that led to the discovery of glass and the purification of metals which in turn gave way to the rise of metallurgy. During the early stages of metallurgy, methods of purification of metals were sought, and gold, known in ancient Egypt as early as 2600 BC, became a precious metal. The discovery of alloys heralded the Bronze Age. After the Bronze Age, the history of metallurgy was marked by which army had better weaponry. Countries in Eurasia had their heyday when they made the superior alloys, which, in turn, made better armour and better weapons. This often determined the outcomes of battles. Significant progress in metallurgy and alchemy was made in ancient India.
b. 1700 BC - King Hammurabi's reign over Babylon
Known metals were recorded and listed in conjunction with heavenly bodies.
c. 430 BC - Democritus of ancient Greece
Democritus proclaims the atom to be the simplest unit of matter. All matter was composed of atoms.
d. 300 BC Aristotle of ancient Greece
Aristotle declares the existence of only four elements: fire, air, water and earth. All matter is made up of these four elements and matter had four properties: hot, cold, dry and wet.
2. Beginning of the Christian Era - End of 17th Century (Alchemy)
a. 300 BC - 300 AD The Advent of the Alchemists
Influenced greatly by Aristotle's ideas, alchemists attempted to transmute cheap metals to gold. The substance used for this conversion was called the Philosopher's Stone.
b. 1520 - Elixir of Life
Alchemists not only wanted to convert metals to gold, but they also wanted to find a chemical concoction that would enable people to live longer and cure all ailments. This elixir of life never happened either.
c. End of 17th Century - Death of Alchemy
The disproving of Aristotle's four-elements theory and the publishing of the book, The Skeptical Chemist (by Robert Boyle), combined to destroy this early form of chemistry.
3. End of 17th Century - Mid 19th Century (Traditional Chemistry)
a. 1700's - Phlogiston Theory
Johann J. Beecher believed in a substance called phlogiston. When a substance is burned, phlogiston was supposedly added from the air to the flame of the burning object. In some substances, a product is produced. For example, calx of mercury plus phlogiston gives the product of mercury. Coulomb's Law
Charles Coulomb discovered that given two particles separated by a certain distance, the force of attraction or repulsion is directly proportional to the product of the two charges and is inversely proportional to the distance between the two charges.
b. 1774-1794 - Disproving of the Phlogiston Theory
Joseph Priestley heated calx of mercury, collected the colorless gas and burned different substances in this colorless gas. Priestley called the gas "dephlogisticated air", but it was actually oxygen. It was Antoine Lavoisier who disproved the Phlogiston Theory. He renamed the "dephlogisticated air" oxygen when he realized that the oxygen was the part of air that combines with substances as they burn. Because of Lavoisier's work, Lavoisier is now called the "Father of Modern Chemistry".
c. 1803 - Dalton's Atomic Theory
John Dalton publishes his Atomic Theory which states that all matter is composed of atoms, which are small and indivisible.
4. Mid 19th Century – Present (Modern Chemistry or 20th Century Chemistry) a. Organic Chemistry