What Happened and When?
A Chronology of Notable Achievements
Democritus (465 BC)
First to conceive matter in the form of particles, which he called atoms.
Alchemists (about 1000-1650)
Attempted to (1) change lead and other base metals to gold; (2) discover a
universal solvent; and (3) discover a life-prolonging elixir. Used plant products and
arsenic compounds to treat diseases.
Boyle, Sir Robert (1637-1691)
Formulated fundamental gas laws. First to conceive the possibility of small
particles combining to form molecules; distinguished between compounds and mixtures;
studied air and water pressures, desalination, crystals and electrical phenomena.
Priestley, Joseph (1733-1804)
Discovered oxygen, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide.
Scheele, C.W. (1742-1786)
Discovered chlorine, tartaric acid, sensitivity of silver compounds to light
(photochemistry); and oxidation of metals.
Le Blanc, Nicholas (1742-1806)
Invented a process for making soda ash from sodium sulfate, limestone and coal.
Lavoisier, A.L. (1743-1794)
Discovered nitrogen; studied acids and described composition of many organic
compounds. Generally regarded as the father of chemistry.
Volta, A. (1745-1827)
Invented the electric battery, a series of "piles" or stacks of
alternating layers of silver and zinc, or copper and zinc, separated by paper soaked in
brine (electrolyte). See Activity (1).
Berthollet, C.L. (1748-1822)
Corrected Lavoisers theory of acids; discovered bleaching power of
chlorine; studied combining weights of atoms (stoichiometry).
Jenner, Edward (1749-1823)
Discoverer of vaccination for prevention of smallpox (1776).
Dalton, John (1766-1844)
The first great chemical theorist; proposed atomic theory (1807); stated law of
partial pressure of gases. His ideas led to laws of multiple proportions, constant
composition and conservation of mass.
Avogadro, A. (1776-1856)
Proposed principle that equal volumes of gases contain the same number of
molecules. The number (6.02 x 1023 for 22.41 litres of any gas) is a fundamental constant
that applies to all chemical units.
Davy, Sir Humphry (1778-1829)
Laid foundation of electrochemistry, studied electroysis of salts in water and
other electrochemical phenomena; isolated Na and K.
Gay-Lussac, J.L. (1778-1850)
Discovered boron and iodine, studied acids and bases and discovered indicators
(litmus); improved production method for H2SO4, did basic research on behavior of gases
versus temp and on the ratios of gas volumes in chemical reactions.
Berzelius J.J. (1779-1850)
Classified minerals chemically; discovered and isolated many elements (Se, Th,
Si, Ti, Zr); coined the terms isomer and catalyst; noted existence of radicals;
anticipated discovery of colloids.
Faraday, Michael (1791-1867)
Extended Davys work in electrochemistry. He developed theories of
electrical and mechanical energy, electrolysis, corrosion, batteries, and
Wohler, F. (1800-1882)
First to synthesize an organic compound (urea, 1828) (a rearrangement reaction).
This discovery was the beginning of synthetic organic chemistry.
Goodyear, Charles (1800-1860)
Discovered vulcanization of rubber (1844) by sulphur, inorganic accelerator, and
heat. Hancock in England made a parallel discovery.
Liebig, J. von (1803-1873)
Fundamental investigation of plant life (photosynthesis) and soil chemistry;
first to propose use of fertilisers. Discovered chloroform and cyanogen compounds.
Graham, Thomas (1822-1869)
Studied diffusion of solutions through membranes; established principles of
Pasteur, Louis (1822 - 1895)
(1) First to recognize infective bacteria as disease-causing agents; (2)
developed concept of immunochemistry; (3) initiated heat-sterilization of wine and milk
(pasteurization); (4) observed optical isomers (enantiomers) in tartaric acid.
Lister, Joseph (1827-1912)
Initiated use of antiseptics in surgery, e.g., phenols, carbolic acid, cresols.
Kekulé, A. (1829-1896)
Laid foundations of aromatic chemistry; conceived of four-valent carbon and
structure of benzene ring; predicted isomeric substitutions (ortho-, meta-, para-).
Nobel, Alfred (1833-1896)
Invented dynamite, smokeless powder, blasting gelatin. Established international
awards for achievements in chemistry, physics and medicine.
Mendeléev, D.I. (1834-1907)
Discovered periodicity of the elements and compiled the first Periodic Table.
Hyatt, J.W. (1837-1920)
Initiated plastics industry (1869) by invention of Celluloid (nitrocellulose
modified with camphor).
Perkin, Sir W.H. (1838-1907)
Synthesized first organic dye (mauveine, 1856) and first synthetic perfume
(coumarin). His work on dyes was continued and expanded by Hofmann in Germany.
Beilstein, F.K. (1838-1906)
Compiled Handbuchder organischen Chemie, a multi-volume compendium of properties
and reactions of organic chemicals.
Gibbs, Josiah W. (1839-1903)
Stated three principal laws of thermodynamics; expounded nature of entropy and
phase rule and the relation between chemical, electric and thermal energy.
Chardonnet, H. (1839-1924)
First to produce a synthetic fibre (nitrocellulose) with properties similar to
Boltzmann, L. (1844-1906)
Developed kinetic theory of gases, their viscosity and diffusion properties are
summarized in Boltzmanns Law.
Roentgen, W.K. (1845-1923)
Discovered x-radiation (1895). Awarded Nobel Prize in 1901.
Le Chatelier, H.L. (1850-1936)
Fundamental research on equilibrium reactions (Le Chateliers Law),
combustion of gases, and metallurgy of iron and steel.
Becquerel, H. (1851-1908)
Discovered radioactivity, deflection of electrons by magnetic fields and gamma
radiation. Nobel Prize 1903 (with the Curies).
Moisson, H. (1852- 907)
Developed electric furnace for making carbides and preparing pure metals;
isolated fluorine (1886). Nobel Prize 1906.
Fischer, Emil (1852-1919)
Basic research on sugars, purines, uric acid, enzymes, nitric acid, ammonia.
Pioneer work in sterochemistry. Nobel Prize 1902.
Thomson, Sir J.J. (1856-1940)
Research on cathode rays resulted in proof of existence of electrons (1896).
Nobel Prize 1906.
Arrhenius, Svante (1859 - 1927)
Fundamental research on rates of reaction versus temperature, expressed by the
Arrhenius equation; and on electrolytic dissociation. Nobel Prize 1903.
Hall, Charles Martin (1863-1914)
Invented method of aluminium manufacture by electrochemical reduction of alumina.
Parallel discovery by Heroult in France.
Baekeland, Leo H. (1863-1944)
Invented phenolformaldehyde plastic (1907), the first completely synthetic resin
Nernst, Walther Hermann (1864-1941)
Awarded Nobel Prize in 1920 for his work in thermochemistry, did basic research
in electrochemistry and thermodynamics.
Werner, A. (1866-1919)
Introduced concept of coordination theory of valence (complex chemistry). Nobel
Prize in 1913.
Curie, Marie (1867-1934)
Discovered and isolated radium; research on radioactivity of uranium. Nobel Prize
1903 (with Becquerel) in physics; in chemistry 1911.
Haber, F. (1868-1924)
Synthesized ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, the first industrial fixation of
atmospheric nitrogen (the process was further developed by Bosch). Nobel Prize 1918.
Rutherford, Sir Ernest (1871-1937)
First to prove radioactive decay of heavy elements and to carry out a
transmutation reaction (1919). Discovered half-life of radioactive elements. Nobel Prize
Lewis, Gilbert N. (1875-1946)
Proposed electron-pair theory of acids and bases; authority on thermodynamics.
Aston, F.W. (1877-1945)
Pioneer work on isotopes and their separation by mass spectrograph. Nobel Prize
Fischer, Hans (1881-1945)
Basic research on porphyrins, chlorophyll, carotene, synthesized hemin. Nobel
Langmuir, Irving (1881-1957)
Fundamental research on surface chemistry, monomolecular films, emulsion
chemistry. Also electric discharges in gases, cloud seeding, etc. Nobel Prize 1932.
Staudinger, Hermann (1881-1965)
Fundamental research on high-polymer structure, catalytic synthesis,
polymerization mechanisms, resulting eventually in development of stereospecific catalysts
by Ziegler and Natta (stereoregular polymers). Nobel Prize 1963.
Flemming, Sir Alexander (1881-1955)
Discovered penicillin (1928); initiated antibiotics. Nobel Prize 1945. The
science was developed in the U.S. by Selman A. Waksman.
Moseley, Henry G.J. (1887-1915)
discovered the relation between frequency of x-rays emitted by an element and its
atomic number, thus indicating the elements true position in the Periodic Table.
Adams, Roger (1889-1971)
Noted educator and contributor to industrial research in catalysis and structural
analysis. Priestley Medal.
Midgley, Thomas (1889-1944)
Discovered tetraethyllead and antiknock treatment for gasoline (1921) and
fluorocarbon refrigerants early research on synthetic rubber.
Ipatieff, Vladimir N. (1890?-1952)
Basic research and development of catalytic alkylation and isomerisation of
hydrocarbons (with Herman Pines).
Banting, Sir Frederick (1891-1941)
Isolated the insulin molecule. Nobel Prize 1923.
Chadwick, Sir James (1891-1974)
Discovered the neutron (1932) Nobel Prize 1935.
Urey, Harold C. (1894-1981)
Discovered heavy isotope of hydrogen (deuterium). Nobel Prize 1934. A leader of
he Manhattan Project. Made original contributions to theories of he origin of the universe
and of life processes.
Carothers, Wallace (1896-1937)
Polymerization research resulting in synthesis of neoprene (polychloroprene) and
of nylon (polyamide).
Kistiakowsky, George B. (1900-1982)
Developed the detonating device used in first atomic bomb.
Heisenberg, W.K. (1901-1976)
Research in quantum mechanics resulting in development of the orbital theory of
chemical bonding. Stated Uncertainity Principle. Nobel Prize 1932.
Fermi, Enrico (1901-1954)
First to achieve a controlled nuclear fission reaction (1939); basic research on
subatomic particles. Nobel Prize 1938.
Lawrence, Ernest O. (1901-1958)
Invented the cyclotron in which first synthetic elements were created. Nobel
Libby, Wilard F. (1908-1980)
Developed radiocarbn dating technique based on carbon-14. Nobel Prize 1960.
Crick, F.H.C (1916- ) with Watson,
Elucidated structure of DNA molecule (1953) resulting in development of
gene-splicing (recombinant DNA) techniques.
Woodward, Robert W. (1917-1979)
Nobel Prize 1965 for his brilliant syntheses of such compounds as cholesterol,
quinine, chlorophyll and cobalamin.