Pneumatic chemistry is a term most-closely identified with an area of scientific research of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. Important goals of this work were an understanding of the physical properties of gases and how they relate to chemical reactions and, ultimately, the composition of matter. Several gases were isolated and identified for the first time during this period in the history of chemistry.
Investigations involving pneumatic chemistry are considered significant both for the improvements in laboratory techniques that they involved and the new information obtained about gases, including the Earth's atmosphere. However, an equal if not greater significance is the role pneumatic chemistry played in Dalton's atomic theory and, later still, in helping to understand and measure atomic and molecular masses.
Jan Baptist van Helmont (1579 – 1644) is sometimes considered the founder of pneumatic chemistry, coining the word "gas" and conducting experiments involving gases. Pneumatic chemists credited with discovering chemical elements include Joseph Priestley, Henry Cavendish, Joseph Black, Daniel Rutherford, and Carl Scheele. Other individuals who investigated gases during this period include Robert Boyle, Stephen Hales, William Brownrigg, Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, and John Dalton.
Notes and references
- Holmyard, Eric John (1931). Makers of Chemistry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 121.
- Partington, J. P. (1951). A Short History of Chemistry (2 ed.). MacMillan and Company. pp. 65 – 151.
- Ihde, Aaron J. (1984). The Development of Modern Chemistry. Dover. pp. 32 – 54. (originally published in 1964)
- Hudson, John (1992). The History of Chemistry. Chapman and Hall. pp. 47 – 60.