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Introduction to Chemistry

Feel free to modify and personalize this study guide by clicking “Customize.”

For guidance in answering the questions in this guide, consult with the links embedded in the headers of each section.

What is chemistry?

Chemistry is the study of matter and the changes it undergoes.

To study matter, chemists look at both macroscopic and microscopic aspects of substances and objects.

What are some applications of chemistry that you already know of? Can you name some macroscopic and microscopic components of your example?

Chemical History

The science of chemistry as we know it today developed over the course of many centuries and is subject to the influences of many civilizations. 

An ancient pseudoscience that has lent a hand to modern chemistry is alchemy

The chart below includes the names of some of the more influential contributors of modern chemistry. Fill out the chart below to help with your understanding of the history of chemistry. You may find this reference helpful.

Chemist Accomplishments/ Influence on modern chemistry
Robert Boyle
John Dalton
Antoine Lavoisier
Amadeo Avogadro 
Alessandro Volta
Louis Pasteur
Alfred Nobel

Areas of Chemistry

There are five major fields of chemistry:

  • physical chemistry - The study of chemical systems and its properties through the application of theories from physics.
  • organic chemistry - The study of chemicals containing carbon.
  • inorganic chemistry - The study of chemicals which do not contain carbon. Most often researchers in this field study rocks and minerals.
  • analytical chemistry - The study of the composition of matter.
  • biochemistry - The study of chemical processes in living things.

Pure and Applied Chemistry

Pure chemistry is research conducted to further knowledge in the field of chemistry without the goal of solving any particular solution, whereas applied chemistry is research conducted to solve problems using already established principles of chemistry.

Then by this definition, is an industrial scientist who is trying to develop a new formula of household disinfectant more likely to conduct research of pure or applied chemistry?

Let's look back to the work of the founders of chemistry who we studied in the table above. Can you classify which type of chemical research, whether it be pure or applied, that each scientist primarily focused on?

Energy in Chemistry

All chemical processes require energy to proceed. This energy is called activation energy.

While energy is needed to start all reactions, chemical processes that produce a net increase of energy are exothermic, and chemical processes that produce a net loss of energy are endothermic

Applications of Chemistry 

Chemistry can be found in the fields of:

The application of chemistry is not simply limited to these fields. Can you think of another field where chemistry is used?

Chemistry and the Environment 

Chemistry has a lot of beneficial applications in our lives, but waste produced by chemical processes may be harmful to us and the world around us.

Today, chemists have put an emphasis on what is known as "green chemistry". Research some of the principles of green chemistry. How does green chemistry help reduce harmful waste?

Scientific Method

The scientific method is a scientific approach to research which has become the foundation for science today. 

Scientific method is an application of inductive reasoning. Define inductive reasoning and another type of reasoning that scientists use when conducting research.

What are the parts to the scientific method? 

Why might scientists be skeptical of the research of another scientist who does not follow the scientific method?

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