Introduction to Chemistry

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The Study of Chemistry


Learning Objective

  • State the general aims and subject matter of chemistry

Key Points

    • Chemistry is sometimes called "the central science," because it bridges physics with other natural sciences, such as geology and biology.
    • Chemistry is the study of matter and its properties.
    • Sub-domains of chemistry include: analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biophysical chemistry.


  • chemistryThe branch of natural science that deals with the composition of matter and the changes that it undergoes as a result of chemical reactions.
  • matterSomething that has mass and takes up space (has volume) and makes up almost everything in the world.

Chemistry is the study of matter and the chemical reactions between substances. Chemistry is also the study of matter's composition, structure, and properties. Matter is essentially anything in the world that takes up space and has mass. Chemistry is sometimes called "the central science," because it bridges physics with other natural sciences, such as geology and biology.

History of Chemistry

A basic chemical hypothesis first emerged in Classical Greece when Aristotle defined the four elements of fire, air, earth, and water. It was not until the 17th and 18th centuries when scientists such as Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) began to reshape the old alchemical traditions into a rigorous scientific discipline.

Antoine-Laurent de LavoisierAntoine-Laurent de Lavoisier is considered the "father of modern chemistry" for his work on the principle of conservation of mass and for developing a new system of chemical nomenclature.

As one of the natural sciences, chemistry provides scientists with insight into other physical sciences and powerful analytical tools for engineering applications. The biological sciences and their offshoots, such as psychology, are rooted in biochemistry, and scientists are only now beginning to understand how the different levels of organization influence each other. For example, the basis of modern medicine is the biochemical processes of the human body.

Chemistry and the Natural World

Chemistry has the power to explain innumerable phenomena in the world, from the ordinary to the bizarre. Why does iron rust? What makes propane such an efficient, clean-burning fuel? How can soot and diamond be so different in appearance yet so chemically similar? Chemistry has the answer to these questions and many more. Understanding chemistry is the key to understanding the world as we know it.

ChemistryChemistry is the study of the properties, composition, and transformation of matter.

Different Branches of Chemistry

The study of chemistry can be organized into distinct branches that emphasize subsets of chemical concepts. Analytical chemistry seeks to determine the exact chemical compositions of substances. Biochemistry is the study of chemicals found in living things (such as DNA and proteins). Inorganic chemistry studies substances that do not contain carbon. Organic chemistry studies carbon-based substances. Physical chemistry is the study of the physical properties of chemicals. Biophysical chemistry is the application of physical chemistry in a biological context.

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