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History of

chemistry &
Atomic theory
By : Jose Gilberto A. de Leon
Democritus400 BC
Democritus was the first to suggest that
matter was composed of atoms, which he
called atamos meaning indivisible.

Unfortunately, he came from a small hick

town and people didnt believe him.
Aristotle, for example, ridiculed him.
Because Aristotle was more respected,
Democritus ideas faded into obscurity.
Believed everything was
made of a combination of 4
The elements were fire,
water, earth, air
Later added another
elements, Aether.
One of the oldest Indian philosophers
said, There are five bhutas or classes of
substances Akasha (space or ether),
Vayu (air), Tejas (fire), Ap (water) and
Kshiti (earth). These substances are
made up of Anu or atoms and these are
further made up of intra-atomic
particles. The difference in grouping of
intra-atomic particles, give rise to the
different properties of substances.
Another Indian philosopher suggested:
Akasha or ether has no atomic
structure; it is inert and ubiquitous.
There are four kinds of atoms air, fire,
water and earth and these combine
with each other to form molecules. The
variety of substances is the
consequence of the difference in the
molecular composition. Heat corpuscles
cause transformation of substances.
The Chinese
The combination of these gave
rise to all material substances.
Properties of these substances
were summed up in the two great
contraries: YIN the female
principle associated with the
moon, night and heavy, and YANG
the male principle associated with
the sun, day and light.
Alchemy was thus a result of various ingredients Greek
and eastern philosophies, elements of mysticism, and
Egyptian technology
Alchemy was used to changed a metal into gold which has
been misled by because the color of the metal is not a
fundamental property
Alchemy developed in parallel in China with its basis in
Taoism, a school of philosophy founded by Lao Tzu in the 6
th century B.C. The Chinese alchemist wished to make gold
not merely for the sake of gold itself. He believed that by
eating gold, or some similar preparation, he could attain
eternal life and have limitless powers. There is thus a
considerable amount of alchemical literature on methods
of consuming gold to achieve immortality
Robert Boyle
A 17th century British nobleman (the youngest of 14
children born to the Earl of Cork). He met Galileo
and was an alchemist. Maybe the last of the
alchemists and the first one to be a real scientist.

Boyle invented a vacuum pump, did many

experiments on gases, and is credited with Boyles

P 1 x V 1 = P 2 x V2

This law states that pressure and volume are

inversely proportional to each other; in other
words, as pressure goes up, volume goes down,
and vice versa.
Even in Boyles time, a few substances were known, but
they werent known to be elements yet.
For example, gold and silver and copper and lead were
known since the ancient times, but they werent known to
be elements.
Its also thought that alchemists actually did discover 4
elements in the middle ages (As, Sb, Bi and Zn).
Phlogiston and Priestly

Phlogiston was a theory that explained how

things burned and what happened when
they did.

Joseph Priestley was a main supporter of

this theory. He also was the inventor of
something much more interesting:
carbonated beverages, specifically soda-
Antione Lavoisier

Father of Modern Chemistry

Demonstrated experimentally the

principle later renamed The Law of
Conservation of Mass.

Proved that hydrogen and oxygen

combine to form water, proving at
last that water was a compound.

Beheaded on 5/2/1794 by guillotine

during the French Revolution at age
of 50.
More on Lavoisier
By insisting on careful measurement and thoughtful
experimentation, Lavoisier turned chemistry from a series
of interesting observations into a real science.
He explained the results that others had gotten. They
knew what they had done. Lavoisier helped to explain
why these things had happened.
He studied combustion reactions and discovered the
importance of oxygen in both combustion and respiration.
More on Lavoisier
Lavoisier figured out that Priestleys dephlogisticated air made
things burn, and he renamed this as oxygen.

He also figured out that phlogisticated air was nitrogen

(sometimes, carbon dioxide was also identifed as phlogiston).

He also replaced the phlogiston theory with a new theory of

combustion. He said that when something burned it reacted
with oxygen or was oxidized.
More on Lavoisier
He also invented the system of naming chemicals that we
use today.

Prior to Lavoisier, people who discovered things named

them whatever they wished.

He also published the first modern chemistry text (Trait

lmentaire de chimie) thus spreading his knowledge
literally around the world.
John Dalton
A Quaker schoolmaster (became a teacher
at the age of 12) who studied all sciences,
but made his greatest contributions in

Developed Atomic Theory and Law of

Multiple Proportions.

Atomic Theory helped to explain many of

the observations that scientists were

Law of Multiple Proportions helped to

explain that 2 elements could combine to
form more than 1 compound; for example
Daltons Atomic Theory
1. All elements are composed of tiny indivisible particles called
2. Atoms of the same element are identical. The atoms of any
one element are different from those of other elements.
3. Atoms of different elements can chemically combine with
one another in small whole-number ratios to form compounds.
4. Chemical reactions occur when atoms are separated, joined
or rearranged. Atoms of one element cannot be changed into
atoms of another element by chemical rxns.
E. Goldstein

German physicist Eugen Goldstein

discovered the proton in 1886.
The proton is positively charged and
determines the identity of an element.
The number of protons is a property
called atomic number. Each
element has a unique atomic number.
JJ Thompson

In 1897, Thompson discovered the


Electrons are negatively charged and

have almost no mass at all, compared
to a proton.

Thompson revised Daltons model of

the atom with one of his own, called
the Plum Pudding Model.
Ernest Rutherford

Rutherford was from New Zealand, and like

his mentor, Thompson, also won a Nobel
Prize for his work.

His work was the famous gold foil

experiments, where he was researching
alpha particles (see Chapter 28 stuff again).

As sometimes happened, Rutherford didnt

set out to discover what he actually did.
The Gold Foil Experiment

Rutherford created a device

to shoot particles at a thin
piece of gold foil, literally
only a few atoms thick.

He expected them to go
through with little or no

But thats NOT what

happened. Some bounced
straight back as if they had
hit a brick wall!
The Nuclear Model

Rutherford was completely surprised by this result.

He had accidentally discovered the nucleus.
Rutherford said that most of the mass of the atom was
contained in a small, dense center which was positively
The electrons still rotated around the nucleus, but most of
the atom was composed of empty space.
We usually call Rutherfords model the nuclear model.
Neils Bohr

Bohr asked a question: if the electrons are

rotating around the nucleus, why dont they
run out of energy. As they did, they would
come closer and closer, attracted by the
opposite charge of the nucleus, and
eventually collapse onto the nucleus,
destroying the atom in the process.

This doesnt happen, and Bohr answered

why. His model is usually called the
Planetary model, because in his model,
electrons orbit the nucleus much as our
planets orbit the Sun.
Bohrs Planetary Model
But the electrons dont just orbit

They actually exist in orbits that

Bohr called energy levels.

Each energy level has a certain

amount of energy.

Electrons can move to a higher

energy level by gaining energy. Or
they can drop to a lower energy
level by losing (or emitting) energy.
Need for a Better Model
Bohrs model has some limitations.
It worked very well for hydrogen (the simplest
atom with only 1 electron). It allowed scientists
to make detailed calculations that explains the
behavior of H.
It didnt work for other elements, mostly because
the caluclations were so detailed and complex
they couldnt be done.
It also violated the Heisenberg Uncertainty
Principle (but that hadnt been discovered yet).
Well get to that.
The Modern Model of the Atom
Many scientists (Louis DeBroglie, Max Planck, Albert
Einstein, Erwin Schroedinger, and many others)
worked on the model of the atom.
Quantum mechanics is the modern model of the
atom. By the early 1930s, it had been born. Its the
model we still use today.