Talk:History of chemistry

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Former good article nominee History of chemistry was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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New content needs home[edit]

The history of science was getting too long, in mav's estimation. So I am looking for a new home for some of the content. Would it be allright with everyone if I injected some of the content here? Ancheta Wis 19:35, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Yes, please! --Arkuat 20:27, 2005 Mar 29 (UTC)
The combined effect of the stuff I wrote, plus Ancheta Wis's imports of text from history of science is to make this article a bit too gushy about Linus Pauling, at least. Giving that a proper edit without removing any useful and appropriate information is going to be something of a chore. --Eric Forste 23:23, 14 July 2005 (UTC)
Another thing that bugs me about this article is the length of the See also list. Many of these people (Faraday! Berzelius! etc.) ought to be mentioned and explained in the main text. (But don't remove Maria Sklodowska-Curie from the see also list: she deserves to be mentioned at least twice.) --Eric Forste (talk) 05:32, 27 July 2005 (UTC)


Did chemisty evolve from alchemistry? -- Jerry Crimson Mann 09:45, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Yes, it did. There's lots of good information about the "prehistory" of chemistry (chemical discoveries made during the age of alchemy) buried in articles such as sulfuric acid. This is also the period during which Islamic science was at the forefront of chemical research, such as it was at that time. I don't how much of that stuff is properly covered in the very long article on alchemy (which I haven't given a proper reading yet, and I don't know anything about Taoist alchemy), or how much of that stuff ought to be alluded to here. Perhaps the current intro paragraph of this article ought to be moved after the ToC and replaced by a more general introduction. --Eric Forste (talk) 23:05, 29 July 2005 (UTC)
I added some material regarding alchemy which seemed to be lacking. The alchemy article provided by Wikipedia does not seem to be written for the purpose of providing a context for the growth of Chemistry. It appears to exist in its own little world. I add a few paragraphs about that. In addition, atomism, while it also goes back a long way and has its own entry, there must be enough of it in this article to provide a context for chemistry. Same for metallurgy. I don't feel that by reading the disparate articles in different parts of Wikipedia, that one would ever get a sense of evolution, and of how science evolved from the more primitive arts and mysticism, and I feel it is unfair to the reader to expect them to piece it together. As writers of "the history of chemistry", that should be our job. It is even more unfair that most of these pre-chemistry topics are not even referenced in the article, or in some cases even mentioned. By the way, a similar text I wrote for chemistry will be shortened considerably later this week. Pking123 02:22, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

I like this article. I searched many places to find the train of thought from the 4 classical elements to modern atomic theory. Only this article gave me what I was looking for. Yes, it's long, but it is headed well. I'm very happy with it.Apples2oranges (talk) 01:56, 24 June 2009 (UTC)


I wished I could see the page with many different resolutions. I am using 800 X 600 resolution and a 13 inch monitor. Will someone who has a larger monitor and resolution report on how the page layout looks? Jaberwocky6669 21:08, 1 October 2005 (UTC)

Delisted GA[edit]

Nobody seems to of actually reviwed this article, which they should of, because there are not enough references to qualify as "well-referenced", and the history of Chemistry is quite a long one, there's no way this article is broad enough in coverage to adequatly explain the entire thing. I know some of the sections are from other articles so that's why their short, but there's not enough of these sections, Chemistry has had a very complicated and detailed history which an article this short couldn't possibly be broad enough to encompass the subject. Also, re-word the intro, "may be said" doesn't tell the reader anything, and once again, for the entire History of Chemistry, this will have to be a very well-written summary, because it's gonna be long folks. Homestarmy 14:03, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

This article has been re-nominated. Paul EJ King 16:00, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Two beginnings?[edit]

I find in the article that Chemistry "may be said" to begin with two different people, working in two centuries: Boyle in the seventeenth, and Lavoisier in the eighteenth. I don't mind being left somewhat in the dark on this affair, but I think the article might be well served to have some clarification on the matter. Thanks for taking the time to read my comment. :) Geuiwogbil 02:09, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

Discrepancy resolved. Thanks for pointing it out. --Blainster 21:40, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
Chemistry in fact has many beginnings, which is why all the nonsense about alchemy (which should be relegated to its own article) has confusticated the first half of this article. This article has twice been nominated and twice failed as GA, and I can only agree with those who failed it. Back in January of 2005, when this article didn't exist yet, I had high hopes for it. At that time the article about history of biology (which I was not ambitious enough to begin writing) didn't exist yet either, but in the meantime history of biology has grown into something that puts this article to shame. Redundancies need to be smoothly summarized. In-text references need to be added. Irrelevancies need to be removed. This article is in desperate need of a thorough rewrite, and I call upon all Wikipedians who recognize the importance of this article to participate. (talk) 10:07, 21 February 2008 (UTC)
I entirely agree with you that history of biology puts this article to shame. I wish I had had the example of history of biology to follow when I started writing this article because I was upset that it didn't already exist yet. In some ways, I'm proud of having started this article, but nowadays, I'm also ashamed of having created so many intractable editing problems that now need to be corrected. arkuat (talk) 08:09, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

GA fail[edit]

I am failing this article because it needs citations and it needs to be substantially revised (some expansions, some copy editing).

  • The lead needs to be a standalone summary of the entire article per WP:LEAD. Ideally, it should reference each section of the article and be a little article in and of itself.
  • I have added quite a few citation tags - the article needs to be sourced to reliable works of scholarly research.
  • Many of the sections are very short. Although I recognize that you are trying to cover a lot of material here, I think that perhaps some of these could be condensed (such as the fire, atomism and metallurgy sections). Others need to be expanded.
  • This is a page that will attract many lay readers, so everything needs to be discussed in terms that the average educated reader will understand.
  • If you could connect the sections together into a narrative that explains the relationship between the developments more clearly, that would help the reader follow the article more effectively.
  • Too many of the sentences are short and choppy; many could be combined together to make the prose flow more smoothly.
  • Nothing needs to be listed in the "See also" section that is already linked in the article.
  • I would start a new page for the "List of chemists", since it could get quite long.
  • The editors should spend some time looking over History of biology. That is an excellent article on the history of a scientific discipline.

If you have any questions regarding this review, drop me a line on my talk page. Awadewit | talk 01:45, 22 August 2007 (UTC)


I have removed the quote from will durant about muslims being the founders of chemistry, its totally misplaced in an artcile about the history of chemistry, and the whole purpose of it is mischievous, essentially it tries to reinforce the point that some how muslim invented chemistry. If we accept that why not just put a bunch of quotes explaining why Antoine Lavoisier is the father of modern chemistry. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tomasz Prochownik (talkcontribs) 08:49, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

The article does in fact have lots of focus on Lavoisier and talks about him as you describe. DMacks (talk) 17:05, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Ethnic Pride Influence[edit]

It is a recurring problem in wikipedia that debatable information will be presented as truth. In my experience, this happens the most when attributing scientific discoveries.

Gerber is credited with making the scientific method. I don't pretend to know if this is true, but I think it is. However, the references for this are not good enough. I can't tell if some of the references are alright because I can't read them. However, number (8) is just a website, it could have been made by anyone. This is not good enough for a reference. Number (9) is made by some British newspaper company that probably isn't reputable. Number (6) and (7) seem to not cover the topic, or somewhat biased. We need better references. I also am in doubt of someone capable of making drugs without knowing the chemical structure, which would be impossible at the time of Gerber. It's more possible he purified certain compounds from plants, which is incredible in it's own right. I don't know of course, but on the webpage for Gerber, it says all of his original work is in cipher, and no one knows how to read it. So I would put some doubt in anyone who says they do know. Also, the reference for Gerber making drugs was from a book that is talked about on wikipedia that has it's own criticism, such as "The Story of Civilization has been criticized by some for simplifications, rash judgments colored by personal convictions, and story-telling, and described as a careless dabbling in historical scholarship". Also "The counter to such criticism is that Durant’s purpose in writing the series was not to create a definitive scholarly production...".

The second example I'll underline is "Tusi described an early version of the conservation of mass, noting that a body of matter is able to change but is not able to disappear". First, the reference itself. It's from a journal, but the journal is quite obscure I imagine, and I'm not sure of it's credibiltiy. More importantly, the idea of someone stating an early form of the conservation of mass near 1201 is a bit ridiculous. It's the conservation of mass. Mass was found by Isaac Newton,(1643-1727). The idea of the conservation of mass without the proper understanding of mass makes no sense. Just because someone performs a chemical reaction and can make it change, but can't get it to disappear doesn't mean he knew the conservation of mass.

Inertia was found by Isaac Newton, all right, but mass, as being the weight that you measure with a balance beam, dates from antiquity. And while various people might have said that you can't make objects go away entirely, the prevailing theory in Lavoisier's time was that part of most objects was composed of "phlogiston" which went into the air and took its weight with it. At which point, the phlogiston didn't have any weight (buoyancy was not understood). So perfect conservation of weight wasn't a part of alchemy. The ashes weighed less than log, and the difference was (supposedly) that phlogiston in the log went up the chimney, but in the air, phlogiston had no weight. Lavoisier changed all that by oxidizing things in sealed containers, proving that whatever else "phlogiston" had, it retained its weight. In fact, some "burned" metals (rusting) made them heavier! But only when air was allowed into the container. Thus, strict conservation of weight in closed systems is Lavoisier's contriution-- the first conservation law in science. THAT made chemistry quantitative for the first time, and the mass-balance became the first and most important instrument of this new science. And I hope we can get the article to suggest this. If somebody else wants to say that Lavoisier's claim that weight is conserved EXACTLY was anticipated before him, please supply the quote to this effect EXACTLY. You can translate from the Russian if you think Lamonsov/Lamonsoff had this critical idea. SBHarris 23:13, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
You are confusing mass and weight. Newton discovered gravity, which in turn separated the concepts of weight and mass. The weight that is measured with a balance beam can be mass, depending on the units. But the beam relies on gravity to exist. But while you can be weightless without gravity you are never "mass-less". Conservation of mass is not conservation of weight. Indeed, mass could not have been known before gravity was discovered, which means that it could not have been known before Newton. Paul EJ King (talk) 06:23, 22 June 2011 (UTC)

More Ethnic Pride influences[edit]

Echoing the previous two comments, there are a lot of weird statements (esp. in the "early times"): for example, it was mentioned that Aristotle's works were preserved by "muslims" in "arabic", and that they were "translated in Latin" in the 13th century, when the original works in Greek are still preserved (see "TLG" on the web:, or visit your local library) and there were latin translations around since the 60 BC by the Tyrranion of Amisus and afterwards commentaries in Greek on the Latin translation by the philosopher Andronicus of Rhodes. Those two statements are ridiculous (apologies for the offense, but think!!!) and were removed. Sylvania w (talk) 05:40, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

This is the English-language wikipedia, and the original mistake (if mistake it was) was from the West-centric viewpoint of English-language historians. Aristotle really was lost to western Europe from around 500 to 1000, and was reintroduced to western Europe from Spain and the Maghreb by way of Arabic translations. This is a history article, so the "mistake" you corrected wasn't really a silly one. Ethnic pride has exactly nothing to do with it. --arkuat (talk) 04:54, 18 August 2009 (UTC)


I quote from SbHarris "Inertia was found by Isaac Newton, all right, but mass, as being the weight that you measure with a balance beam, dates from antiquity". This is basically wrong. Newton did not even try to describe inertia (he more-or-less reworded Aristotle's idea on resistance to changes-in-motion Physica and specifically books II, IV, and V, albeit he phrased it in a very elegant manner, using one phrase instead of three heavy-philosophical chapters/books). Newton did, however, quantify mass through his gravity equation, that connected mass (the cause) to a measurable force (the effect). As far as the conservation of mass experiment and subsequent theory by Lavoisier, I agree with you! Sylvania w (talk) 05:40, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

Newton's second law quantifies mass via its resistance to acceleration when a force is applied. This property of resistance to force, as showed by poor acceleration, is called "inertia." Newton noted that mass is proportional to inertia-- the first person to do so. That's totally separate from weight (what you measure with a balance) or gravitational mass (what is it about a mass that attracts other masses). Aristotle had no quantifiable idea of inertia and indeed didn't even have the idea that acceleration was the key-- he just thought that heavy things were hard to move. Well, true, but most of that is due to friction here on Earth and Aristotle in his wildest dreams would not have discussed the inertia of objects floating freely among the crystal spheres. Newton did. He's the guy who got the inertia part right, free from friction and confusion about dirt and Earthly corrupt natural "motions", and moreover, he got it quantifiably right. Aristotle scores zero on this issue, no matter how many books he wrote. Newton could have told you how hard it would be to move a cannon ball in a zero-g space station. Aristotle would not even have been able to comprehend the situation, or the question, let alone give you an calculatable ANSWER. That's now much we owe to Newton. SBHarris 08:22, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
You are wrong: you confuse mass and inertia. Mass (as in Newton's second law Force = mass * acceleration), is the same as inertial-mass (obviously! just think: Weight = mass * acceleration-of-gravity) and which also enters Newtons gravity equation (F=GMm/R^2) as gravitational-mass (M,m). What quantifies change in motion by a force is mass (as in the second law of Newton) and not inertia, and the same mass is what quantifies weight!
Newton's law that spoke of inertia was basically Newton's first law [an object tends to maintain its state-of-motion (either rest or move at constant velocity (think vector velocity not simply speed) unless acted upon by a force]. Newton provided no way to quantify inertia (which is mass * area, and is more correctly called moment-of-inertia); I do not remember who was the first to calculate this, but I can find out if you want! So Newton did not provide any means to calculate inertia, and the type of inertia he was speaking about was exactly what Aristotle was describing in the books that I mentioned above, as qualitatively as Newton did [Aristotle seems much more confused (he was basically wrong that eventually all moving objects will reach rest) and much less "scientifically elegant" (probably because he was confused, or maybe because he was writing "philosophy" and not "science")]. The friction, earth, etc are nowhere in those books (see TLG, or ; I can give you access to the greek originals on-line, but unfortunately the english translations that I have are all in hardcopies)...
Also, you confuse balance and dynamometer: Balance does not measure weight-force, it compares two masses placed on the two different arms of the balance (think: the standard for mass, e.g. the NIST prototype kilogram, is an object, not a force). Machines that measure weight-force are dynamometers, springs, force gauges and the like.
Anyway, all of these probably belong to some page on the "History of Physics". Also, reading from the internet on physics is really bad for you (and for me)! Try reading a physics book :-)) Sylvania w (talk) 00:13, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

HTML comment embedded in the text[edit]

I found this HTML comment embedded very early in the text, removed it here to the talk page, and replied to it.

if anyone recalls his/her classical education, he/she should add a short paragraph that briefly mentions the "fight" between the Aristotelian continuum theory (which dominated for the next 1000 years), against the atomic views of Democritus, and the dialectic theory of Heraclitus

The "fight" was mostly fought in the 19th century, settled in the early 20th century, and is discussed after the halfway part of this article. Search the article for Ostwald and Perrin. --arkuat (talk) 08:03, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

So the history of chemistry ends in the 50s ?[edit]

Would someone please add more recents developments and perhaps active areas of research? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:02, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Curiousity Doth Purvey[edit]

What of the Art of The Apothecary?[edit]

What about The Honorable GrandMaster Alchemist himself?


Why did he not get a Nobel Prize... yet?

It seems like all of the Arts and Sciences in the quest for the philosopher's stone and ancient perfuming, the art of apothecary and modern chemistry? Neurodynamics culminating into entheopothesis, entheoecstasis of entheoshaman-mystics, pharmako-dynamics and the darkest corners of mind control research?

Perhaps only the great minds, priests and doctors are acutely aware enough to concsiously recognize intelligently those whos cognitive capabilities lie on the other side of the cosmic mind and incarnate without Nobel Prizes, the American Alchemist and proponent, progenator and abstract analytical genius [self termed: 'tinkerer'] unlike those who get undeserved credit for nothing near the pinical achievements of thosands of years of research... The Gnosis of Sacraments will never die it is the Sama it is the Shaman. It will live eternally in the manifest creation of the celestial craft of devine. Long Live the GrandMaster Alchemyst. Here Here to modern Alchemy and the Sacred and Revealed Modern Craft.


I cut this as it is not explained in the article its self nor is it explained by the source. The history of chemistry began more than 4,000 years ago with the Egyptians who pioneered the art of synthetic "wet" chemistry. First chemists, February 13, 1999, New Scientist

J8079s (talk) 02:33, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
"Wet chemistry" is a pretty general concept and sounds like it matches the cited ref's description of intentionally mixing specific things in specific ways to get a predictable product. DMacks (talk) 02:58, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
The web site cites; (Nature, vol 397, p 483). maybe someone with access could expand on this sentence for the article. thanksJ8079s (talk) 03:11, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
The article . doi:10.1038/17240.  Missing or empty |title= (help) claims laurionite (PbOHCl) and phosgenite (Pb2Cl2CO3) where made by mixing lead oxide with water and several other salts. This qualifies for wet chemistry.--Stone (talk) 07:18, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Presentism in the history of science[edit]

In my opinion, this article is wrong when it described medieval arab alchemy in the transition between alchemy and chemistry. This is Presentism (literary and historical analysis).

Medieval alchemy was far, far form being a science, and this is the modern historical consensus. Calling Jābir ibn Hayyān the father of chemistry, is plain wrong for two reasons: 1) He was an alchemist, and his work lacked scientific rigor, and 2) He probably never existed. There is a debate among science historians about the authenticity of his works. Most of them acknowledge that his most important works were in fact written by a european alchemist of the 12th or 13th century, called by modern historians as the "latin Geber", in another famous case of Pseudepigraphy (very common at the time). And many others go as far as claiming that the arab geber (Jābir) he never existed at all.

Anyway, this doesn´t change the fact that medieval alchemy is alchemy, nothing more and nothing less.--Knight1993 (talk) 20:46, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

Fulcanelli's The Dwellings of the Philosophers chapter 7 may be a beneficial summary for editors not familiar with alchemy (for alchemy's sake) wanting to iron out the distinction. The mixture of these two very different topics contributes to the problems outlined above. (talk) 02:15, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

Altering Alchemy info[edit]

Howdy. I'm about to put in a rewrite to an alchemy portion of this article (previous = poor, no refs) and hope to make further edits later to help correct some points elsewhere in the article. I'm more of an alchemy editor, than a chemistry editor so please do help me make these improvements. Thanks. Car Henkel (talk) 00:20, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

History of chirality and enantioselective synthesis[edit]

Part of the recent re-wite of enantioselective synthesis included a history section. I'm not sure if it's too specific for this page but I thought I'd flag-it in-case anyone thinks its relivant. Project Osprey (talk) 12:59, 14 June 2013 (UTC)