Introduction to Chemistry


Chemistry is the study of the way materials are put together and their behavior under different conditions. This science, more than any other, involves all of one's senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling. It is a springboard into other scientific fields. A foundation in basic chemistry facts can assist one in the study of other scientific curricula. One cannot explain the physics concept of magnetism or electricity without understanding the chemistry of atoms. The biological study of photosynthesis has more meaning with the knowledge of the basic chemical reactions involved. Many examples for each scientific field can be given that stress the usefulness of chemistry but, besides this application, chemistry concepts can be used to explain many events we observe in daily life.

Development of Modern Chemistry

Chemistry is the science that concerns the study of matter from an atomic or molecular perspective. An understanding of chemistry helps to foster practical developments in medicine and health care products, structural materials, energy and food production, and microelectronics. The origins of chemistry are ancient and probably began with the use of natural materials for practical purposes. Modern chemistry emerged in the eighteenth century, when the balance began to be used systematically as a tool in research. Balances measure mass, that is, the quantity of matter in a material. Matter is the general term for the material things around us and may be defined as whatever occupies space and can be perceived by our senses.

Experiment and Explanation

An important aspect of scientific research is careful observation of natural phenomena. In chemical research, observations are usually made under circumstance wherein variables, such as temperature and amounts of substances, can be controlled. An experiment is an observation of natural phenomena carried out in a controlled manner so that the results can be duplicated and rational conclusions obtained. After a series of observations or experiments, a researcher may see some relationship or regularity in the results. If the regularity or relationship is a basic one and can be simply stated, it is called a law. A law is a concise statement or mathematical equation about a basic relationship or regularity of nature. Another aspect of scientific research is explanation. Explanations help us organize knowledge and predict future events. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation of some regularity of nature. If a hypothesis is to be useful, it should suggest new experiments that become tests of the hypothesis. If a hypothesis is a basic one and successfully passes many tests, it becomes known as a theory. A theory is a tested explanation of basic natural phenomena. The general process of advancing scientific knowledge through observation; the framing of laws, hypotheses, or theories; and the conducting of more experiments is sometimes called the scientific method.