- "All substances are poisons; the difference between a toxin and a cure is the dose."
- — Paracelsus, 16th century Swiss surgeon and scientific philosopher
Quick reference cardEdit
Along with physics, chemistry is one of the physical sciences and involves the study of physical substances, and how they interact with one another and other elements in their environment, such as exposure to light, heat, cold, and so forth.
The precursor of chemistry was alchemy (which got its name from the Arabic الكيمية (Al Kimia), meaning "the art of transformation"). As with modern chemistry, alchemy's key pursuit of alchemy was to discover a way to create a better world by enhancing and perpetuating human life (by creating gold from other non-valuable elements and to discover an immortality elixir). While the means to do so would not appear much later in the 21st century, one of the great contributions of alchemy nevertheless could be found in two weapons of war of the Middle Ages: Greek fire and gunpowder. While the recipe for Greek fire has since been lost along with the Eastern Roman Empire, the discovery of gunpowder by the Chinese was transmitted by the Mongols overseas, where it sparked a global arms race in the Old World that culminated in the First World War; other less lethal and more benefic consequences were the production of new elements such as sugar, and artificial medicines as first pioneered by the Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus.
In the meanwhile, alchemy began its transformation into the modern science of chemistry during the Renaissance, when the old assumptions of alchemy were re-examined, re-evaluated and interpreted through the lens of scientific rationality. Since then, understanding of the nature of matter has evolved along with the self-understanding of the science of chemistry by its practitioners. This continuing historical process of evaluation includes the categories, terms, aims and scope of chemistry. Additionally, the development of the social institutions and networks which support chemical enquiry are highly significant factors that enable the production, dissemination and application of chemical knowledge in our day.
| Preceded by:|
|Chemistry|| Succeeded by:|
Laws of Nature