What is chemistry?

Chemistry is the science that studies the composition, properties and changes that matter undergoes .

In other words, chemistry is the discipline that is responsible for analyzing and understanding how substances are composed and how they transform.

Like other sciences, chemistry relies on the scientific method to achieve its goal.

The word khemeia is the ancestor of the word chemistry . Khemeia means ‘art of extracting juices’, and comes from the Greek khumos.

In Arabic, khemeia was transformed into al-khimiya , which was adopted by Europeans as alchemy. Those who were engaged in alchemy were called alchemists. The word alchemy was transformed into chemistry .

What does chemistry study?

When ice melts or a nail rusts, there is a change in matter. When we add salt to a glass with water, there is also a change in the matter. Matter is all we see and all changes in matter are studied by chemistry.

Chemistry seeks to understand the structure of atoms and how they come together to form molecules. Also how molecules react and the concentration or quantity of molecules in a space.

Whether a gas rises or falls depends on its chemical properties. The energy released by compounds and the speed at which they react are problems in chemistry. Concepts such as pH and acidity, surface tension, catalysis, ions, electrolytes and temperature are the daily life of chemists.

Branches of chemistry

  • Analytical chemistry: it is dedicated to the analysis of substances. Analytical chemists generally work in production and quality control in industries.
  • Biochemistry: chemical reactions at the molecular level in living organisms are the objective of the study of biochemistry.
  • Inorganic chemistry: focuses on the study of inorganic compounds, that is, all those compounds where carbon is not part of their constitution.
  • Organic chemistry: includes the study of carbon and all its compounds. Organic chemists work in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals and the oil industry.
  • Physicochemistry: addresses the physical properties and behavior of matter through models and theories.

Applications of chemistry

Blood tests are done thanks to chemistry.

Chemistry is in many products of everyday life. Chemists use chemical reactions to produce drugs, plastics, fabrics, among other things. The process of producing chemical compounds is called chemical synthesis .

In industries, quality control is an application of chemistry. Analyzing the purity of materials, intermediates, and end products to ensure they meet the conditions demanded by the public is important.

Another application of chemistry is in environmental chemistry . Air and water pollution are problems addressed by government or private agencies. They carry out chemical analyzes to determine the amount of contaminating compounds present in a certain sample and thus be able to take protective measures.

In the area of ​​health , chemistry has many applications. For example, the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood is measured by chemical reactions. The same goes for many other blood compounds, such as cholesterol and hormones. This is done to determine a person’s health status.

Chemistry is also involved in the development of medicines and nutritional supplements. Many of the medicines we use and know about are chemicals.

Like the other sciences, chemistry is not a completely independent science. The applications of chemistry in physics and biology have been very useful, so much so that there is physicochemistry and biochemistry as branches of chemistry.

Importance of chemistry

Our day to day is full of chemistry: inside our body, in our skin and everything around us.

Knowing chemistry is being able to discover why we feel sick to our stomach at one moment, why our hands are clean after using soap, and even why we can eat an egg after boiling it.

In our organism

Inside our stomach there is hydrochloric acid, whose chemical formula is HCl. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach helps digest food. When we have heartburn, which we call heartburn, we often take a substance, milk of magnesia, which helps neutralize hydrochloric acid. Milk of magnesia is a base, magnesium hydroxide.

In hygiene

When we use soap to wash our hands or bathe, we are using a surfactant. This surfactant is a chemical that has an attraction for water and fats. Therefore, a foam is formed that helps loosen grease from dirt. The same goes for laundry detergents.

In the kitchen

The kitchen is one of the places at home where chemistry reigns supreme. A raw egg is almost transparent and gelatinous, but when we cook it, it turns white and hard. This is due to chemical reactions of the proteins of the egg by the action of heat.

In psychology

Chemistry is also very important in people’s behavior. Some psychological problems are due to changes in chemicals in the brain. Even falling in love implies a change in body chemistry!

Brief history of chemistry

The first chemists were alchemists who were looking for a way to transform iron into gold. The first chemistry book was published in 1597 and showed the preparation of hydrochloric acid, ammonium sulfate and aqua regia.

In the 16th century the foundations of chemistry were established with the development of metallurgy and the use of minerals as medicines .

From alchemy to chemistry

In the 17th century, alchemy became less important and became the chemistry of the 18th century.

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) explained the chemistry of combustion. To him is due the law of the conservation of matter.

The English chemist John Dalton (1766-1844) established the law of multiple proportions and formulated the first atomic theory.

See more about the history of the Atom .

Beginning of organic chemistry

The term “organic” was coined by Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) to describe substances from living things, such as olive oil or sugar.

Chemistry in the 19th century

By 1830, 55 different elements were known. Julius Lothar Meyer (German chemist, 1830-1895) and Dimitri Mendeleyev (Russian chemist, 1834-1907) each developed their own versions of the periodic table .

The laws of thermodynamics were applied to chemical reactions and thermochemistry emerged thanks to Josiah William Gibbs (1839-1903). Gibbs is credited with the concepts of free energy and chemical potential.

Synthesis of plastics

Celluloid, the first synthetic plastic, was created in 1869. Neoprene was first synthesized in 1932.

Radioactivity and its uses

Radioactivity was discovered by Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934) with her husband Pierre Curie (1859-1906). Thanks to radioactive isotopes, chemical reactions in many biological processes in the 20th century could be determined.

Sustainable chemistry

Chemists are currently seeking less environmentally damaging techniques, producing biofuels and generating alternative energy.


by Abdullah Sam
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