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The History of Chemistry

Alchemy is alive and well today, but it existed before chemistry was a science.
Alchemists discovered many of the chemical elements and developed the systematic way
of examining, matter that came to be known as chemistry.
The earliest record of man's interest in chemistry was approximately 3,000 B.C, in
the fertile crescent. At that time, chemistry was more an art than a science. Tablets record
the first known chemists as women who manufactured perfumes from various substances.
Ancient Egyptians produced certain compounds such as those used in mummification.
By 1000 B.C, chemical arts included the smelting of metals and the making of
drugs, dyes, iron, and bronze. Iron making was also introduced and refinement of lead
and mercury was performed. The physical properties of some metals such as copper, zinc,
silver, and gold were understood.
Philosophical attempts to rationalize why different substances have different
properties (color, density, smell), exist in different states (gaseous, liquid, and solid), and
react in a different manner when exposed to environments, for example to water or fire or
temperature changes, led ancient philosophers to postulate the first theories on nature and
The common aspect in all these theories was the attempt to identify a small
number of primary elements that make up all the various substances in nature. Substances
like air, water, and soil/earth, energy forms, such as fire and light, and more abstract
concepts such as ideas, aether, and heaven, were common in ancient civilizations even in
absence of any cross-fertilization; for example in Greek, Indian, Mayan, and ancient
Chinese philosophies all considered air, water, earth and fire as primary elements.
Nevertheless, there were several problems with alchemy, as seen from today's
standpoint. There was no systematic naming system for new compounds, and the
language was vague to the point that the terminologies meant different things to different
people. To a large degree, this language is incomprehensible to us today.
There was also no agreed-upon scientific method for making experiments
reproducible. Clearly, there needed to be a scientific method where experiments can be
repeated by other people, and results needed to be reported in a clear language that laid
out both what is known and unknown.
Nevertheless, alchemists developed a framework of theory, terminology,
experimental process and basic laboratory techniques that are still recognizable today.
Practical applications of alchemy produced a wide range of contributions to medicine and
the physical sciences and, in the 17th century, practical alchemy started to evolve into
modern chemistry, making contributions to the "chemical" industries of today.