Science in Context

Major Advances in Chemistry in the Context of History



Contemporary Inventions and Advances in other Sciences, Art and Culture

Contemporary Political Events

431 B.C. Democritus suggested that all matter consists of tiny indivisible particles, which he called atoms.

·        From 461 to 431 BC: Greeks produced their greatest arts.

·        416 B.C. Aristophanes wrote comedies

·        Peloponnesian War began, eventually leading to the total defeat of Athens by Sparta


1643 Torricelli advanced notion of atmospheric pressure and discovered the barometer.

·        Rembrandt painted Nightwatch

·        1650: Taj Mahal was completed

·        1687: Newton’s Principia:force that causes apples to fall is the same that keeps the moon orbiting the earth

·        1642: French missionaries founded Montreal

·        Louis XIV’s 57-year-reign of France began. Coincidentally the sun entered 57- year period of relatively few sunspots.

·        By 1642 the large scale British emigration to Massachusetts was completed.


Henry Cavendish


Cavendish is an English chemist who was the first to recognize hydrogen gas as a distinct substance.  He also described the composition of water .In order to establish that hydrogen gas was a substance entirely different from ordinary air, he calculated their densities as well as the densities of several other gases.  He also  the first that showed that water is composed of oxygen and hydrogen.  He measured heats of fusion and evaporation as well as specific heats and those of the mixing solutions in water. 


·        In 1766, the first map puzzles were invented in England.



·        1786: Mozart composed Figaro

Go to fullsize image

·        Steamboats began to appear














·        1776: American Revolutionary War

·        1783: 2nd Treaty of Paris ended U.S. Revolutionary War

·        U.S. Constitution was written.














Daniel Azancot

1787 Charles’ Law was formulated. Similar gas laws followed, providing a foundation for physical chemistry.


1789 Lavoisier published Traitement elementaire de chimie in which he explained combustion as oxidation and devised modern chemical nomenclature.


1785 Henry Cavendish finds composition of atmosphere.


1791 Jerenias B. Richter establishes chemical stoichiometry.

·        1790: Davy devises electrolysis, allowing many elements to be discovered such as K, Na, F, Cl, Mg

·        1793: Cotton gin was invented

·        1796: Jenner ‘s vaccination against smallpox

·        French Revolution began as Bastille was stormed by Parisians who wanted to free political prisoners. Five yeas later, Lavoisier was tragically guillotined for being indirectly involved in tax-collecting.

·        In Liege (Belgium) workers and peasants expelled prince-bishops who had controlled the land.

·        1791: Old province of Quebec was divided into Upper and Lower Canada

1802 Gay-Lussac’s direct relationship of P versus T


1803 Daltons Atomic Theory was published, revealing that compounds consist of elements in whole number ratios.

·        1804: Beethoven composed Eroica symphony

·        Steam locomotive was invented

·        Britain declared war on France

·        U.S. president Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon, doubling size of U.S.


1811 Avogadro’s Law paved the way for atomic masses and stoichiometry



1812 Jöhns Jakob Berzelius correctly assumed that there is a connection between chemical and electrical forces.


1824 Wohler, Von Liebeg  and Gay Lussac discover isomers, different compounds that the share the same chemical formula.


1826 Univerborden distills indigo dye and discovers aniline, used in dyes,plastics and pharmaceuticals

·        1812: Grimm’s fairy tales

·        Goya painted disasters of war


·        Economic depression in Britain; Luddites blamed technology and wrecked machines in factories

·        By 1812 Napoleon had conquered most of Europe west of Russia.

·        1814: The Treaty of Ghent * restores all boundaries to positions before War of 1812.

*For an amazing connection between history and science, read Stephen Jay's Gould's first chapter of Bully for Brontosaurus(1991). The policy behind the The Treaty of Ghent in 1814 was set by Robert Castlereagh, who had survived a duel, only to commit suicide later in life. His nephew, Fitzroy, who also suffered from manic depression, was the captain of the Beagle. The latter hired Charles Darwin because he wanted a social companion for the mentally-demanding voyage. Contrary to popular myth, Darwin was not hired as the ship's naturalist. So if the shadow of Fitzroy's uncle's suicide had not loomed over him, Darwin may never have been hired and may never have been inspired to explain evolution.

1840 Henri Hess Hess's Law states that the enthalpy change accompanying a chemical reaction depends only on the initial and final states, and is independent of the route taken. Also known as the law of constant heat summation.


Jean Baptiste-André Dumas proposes the idea that organic properties are more dependant on chemical structure than on elemental makeup.


·        1840: July 4 - The Cunard Line's 700-ton wooden paddlewheel steamer RMS Britannia departs from Liverpool bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia on the first transatlantic passenger cruise.

·        1850’s: Production of steel revolutionised by invention of the Bessemer process

Bessemer converter, schematic diagram



·        1840:  Captain Charles Wilkes circumnavigates Antarctica, claiming what became known as Wilkes Land for the United States.

·        1857: Indian rebellion






Dimitri Poliderakis 

1869 Mendeleev organized elements into a periodic table.


·        1859: Charles Darwin proposes a mechanism for evolution in Origin of the Species

·        1866: Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

·        1867: dynamite and the typewriter were invented

·        1864: Maxwell unifies electricity with magnetism with mathematical equations

·        1869: Suez canal opened

·        1870: Rockefeller established Standard Oil Company

·        1861-65 American Civil War

·        1867: BNA act established Dominion of Canada

·        Alexander II emancipates serfs in Russia and introduces reforms

·        1881 Boer War

1884 Arrhenius theory of electrolytic dissociation.
He not only proposed that acids and bases break up into ions, but he used ions to explain neutralization reactions and electrical conductivity of solutions.


·        1883: Nietzche: Thus Spake Zarathustra

·        1884: Skyscraper was invented.

·        1885: the first gasoline automobile

·        Expressionism Art movement began

·        1885: Pasteur saved life of boy stricken with rabies:


·        Karl Max writes Das Kapita

·        1885: Canadian Pacific Railway was completed

·        1887: Hertz created the first radio waves with a high voltage induction coil

·        Triple Alliance formed between Italy, Germany and Austria

·        1883: Jewish immigration to Palestine


1890’s  Hoff  van'tJacobus did important work on chemical equiibrium and rates of reactions.




1897 Thomson discovered the electron, showing it to be 1/1836 of H’s mass



·        1894: Ramsay discovers argon

·        1895: Radio was invented

·        discovery of X rays

·        1896: 1st modern Olympics held in Athens

·        1897: Henri Rousseau painted the Sleeping Gypsy

·        Tesla, Braun and Marconi receives lay foundation for long range transmission of radio.

·        Curie discovered radium

·        Aspirin hit the market

·        1899: Monet painted 1st of Waterlillies series and

·        Freud: Interpretation of Dreams

·        Enzyme action is first explained using lock and key analogy

·        1897: Germany quickly expanded its navy

·        1898: Spanish American War

·        Zionist movement was founded

·        Americans took control of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines following victory in Spanish-American War

1900: Secret societies killed Westerners and Christian Chinese during Boxer          Rebellion.



1898 Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie discovered elements polonium and radium. Marie first coined the term "radioactivity" and developed methods for the separation of radium from radioactive residues in sufficient quantities to allow for its characterization and the careful study of its properties, therapeutic properties in particular.




·        1898 C. S. Lewis, British author of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, etc. was born













·        1893 Women in New Zealand are the first to achieve the right to vote

·        1898 The United States annexes the Hawaiian Islands.

·        1899-1902 The Boer War. Britain eventually defeats the Boers in Southern Africa










(added by Varuni Nagulesapillai)

1907 Rutherford changed the model of atom by proposing small dense nucleus.

Go to fullsize image

·        1903: airplane was invented

·        existence of vitamins demonstrated

·        1904 : Barre’s Peter Pan

·        1905 Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity; Photoelectric Effect; Brownian Motion finally proves existence of atoms


·        early brain surgery

·        1907: beginning of Cubism (Braque; Picasso)

·        1909: Model T-Ford


·        early 1900’s : independence movements gathered strength in India while rift grew between Hindus and Moslems

·        1907: Triple Entente signed between Russia, Britain and France

1913 Bohr explained hydrogen’s spectrum with atomic quantum theory

1919 Aston, Francis William revealed that most elements are a mixture of isotopes

Go to fullsize image

·        1912: Jung wrote Psychology of the Unconscious

·        stainless steel invented

·        1913: Proust began Remembrance of Things Past

·        Moseley defined atomic# in terms of protons

·        X-ray crystallography studies begun by Bragg

·        Schrodinger’s equation predicts the psi-field for particles

·        1915: Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity explains gravity effects on space


·        1910: Mexican revolution

·        1911: Industrial unrest in Britain

·        1912: republic of China established

·        1913: 16th amendment gives U.S. federal govt. the power to levy an income tax

·        1914: World War I began after assassination of Ferdinand


1939 Linus Pauling published Nature of the Chemical Bond


·        1930’s: Hans Bethe explains how stars generate energy

·        1933: FM radio

·        1937: Nylon is invented

·        1939: Steinbeck ‘s Grapes of Wrath

·        Jet engine was invented

·        1942: CamusOutsider

·        Casablanca

·        1st nuclear reactor

·        Germany invaded Poland, triggering World War II

·        Stalin had exiled Trotsky assassinated; reign of terror continued in Russia for years

·        1941; Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing U.S. into WWII

1952 Robert S. Mulliken proposed that, when molecules are formed, the atoms' original electron configurations are changed into an overall molecular configuration. Further extending his theory, he developed (1952) a quantum-mechanical theory of the behaviour of electron orbitals as different atoms merge to form molecules.



1953 Crick and Watson determined the structure of DNA. They wrote in Nature:

“We wish to put forward a radically different structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid.  This structure has two helical chains each coiled around the same axis.”

·        1950: Credit cards invented

·        1950: Jean Piaget’s theory of childhood development

·        1951: Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye



·        1955: Polio vaccine is produced commercially

·        1956: The world’s motor vehicle population surpasses 100 million

·        1957: Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite

·        1949: NATO is formed

·        1950-53: The Korean War

·        1955 Martin Luther King leads Alabama bus boycott

·        1956: British Clean Air Act

·        1958: British House of Lords admits its first female memebrs

1960’s Peter Mitchell revealed how mitochondrial enzymes converted ADP to ATP.

1970’s Gilbert, Walter developed techniques for sequencing DNA



·        1960’s: The birth control pill was introduced to the public

·        1967: Quarks, the constituents of neutrons, protons and other particles are discovered

·        Quarks

·        1961-69: The Beatles revolutionize popular music


·        1969: Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins—take man's first walk on moon (July 20).


·        1970’s: The Standard Model(Theory), which explains how leptons and quarks interact, is developed

·        1972: Intel introduces the 8008, the first 8-bit microprocessor.

·        1973: Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf develop the basic ideas of the Internet

·        1963: Civil rights rally held by 200,000 in Washington, D.C.; Martin Luther King delivers “I have a dream” speech

·        1963: Bay of Pigs Invasion

·        1960’s cold war between USA and  USSR. Latter continues to expand boundaries by invading Czechoslovakia and  Hungary

·        1960’s: Homicide rate climbs dramatically in US and Canada

·        1966: Cultural Revolution in China

·        1967: 6 day war between Israel and Arab nations

·        1969: Protests against Vietnam War

·        1970: creation of Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. and Environment Canada

1980’s Mullis, Kary B. developed the polymerase chain reaction which allowed large amounts of DNA to be quickly copied from small samples.

·        1988: Human Genome Project

·        1997: gas-powered fuel cells invented

·        1980’s: Conservative political parties in parts of the Western World show disregard for environment and social programs while creating economic policies that favour elite

·        1987: Short and medium range nuclear weapons banned in Europe

·        1989: Fall of Berlin Wall, end of Cold War; American invasion of Panama

·        1990: Iraq invades Kuwait, leading to Gulf War





Chemistry in Action. Morgan, Nina .Oxford University Press. 1995.

The History of Science and Technology. Bunch, Bryan. Houghton Mifflin. 2004

The Oxford English Reference Dictionary. Pearsall, Judy and Trumble,Bill. Oxford University Press. 1996.

The Times Atlas of World History. Barraclough, Geoffrey. Hammond. 1993.

The Britannica Encyclopedia DVD Edition. 2000.

The Particle Garden. Kane, Gordon. Helix Books. 1995





Page Maintained by Enrico Uva
Technical Asistance: C. Frizzell; and M.Pololos, D.Verrillo and K.Papoulias at EMSB
Copyright ©2006


A violation of sig figs!!