Scientists who engaged in research in the area of chemistry are called chemists. There have been many chemists throughout history who have made discoveries and breakthroughs. Those discoveries have defined modern chemistry that changed the modern world in terms of medicine, food, and technology.
The development of modern chemistry started in the 18th century. This was the time of the experiments and discoveries, and new theories in the area of chemistry. In this period, a number of pioneering chemists provided the theoretical basis for all the research and discoveries that were to follow. Here are the first four chemists known as the fathers of modern chemistry that we have to know. In addition, many other chemists developed modern chemistry. Here is just a few of them:
1. Antoine Lavoisier (August 26, 1743 – May 8, 1794)
Antoine Lavoisier was a French chemist. He is the “father of modern chemistry”. He was a pioneer of stoichiometry. Lavoisier was the first person to state “the law of conservation of mass” from his research on quantitative chemical experiments. He investigated the composition of water and named the elements oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783). He introduced the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature and analytical chemistry. He discovered the role of oxygen in combustion and respiration. He proved that diamond and charcoal are different forms of the same element, which he named carbon.
2. Robert Boyle (January 25, 1627 – December 30, 1691)
Robert Boyle was an Irish chemist, physicist, inventor, and early gentleman scientist noted for his work in chemistry and physics. He is one of the founders of modern chemistry. He is known for the formulation of the first gas law “Boyle’s law”. He studied the physical properties of gases and developed the concept of an element, compound and mixture. The Sceptical Chymist is the cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.
3. John Dalton (September 6, 1766 – July 27, 1844)
John Dalton was an English chemist, meteorologist, and physicist. In 1803, Dalton proposed a modern atomic theory which stated that all matter was composed of small indivisible particles termed atoms, atoms of a given element possess unique characteristics and weight, and three types of atoms exist simple (elements), compound (simple molecules), and complex (complex molecules). He proposed Dalton’s law or Dalton’s law of partial pressures in 1801, which describes the relationship between the components in a mixture of gases and the relative pressure each contributes to that of the overall mixture.
4. Jöns Jakob Berzelius (August 20, 1779 – August 7, 1848)
Friherre Jöns Jakob Berzelius was a Swedish chemist. He invented the modern chemical notation. He is together with John Dalton, Antoine Lavoisier and Robert Boyle considered as a father of modern chemistry. He discovered the law of constant proportions, which showed that inorganic substances are composed of different elements in constant proportions by weight. Berzelius discovered the chemical elements silicon, selenium, thorium, and cerium. In addition, the students working in his laboratory discovered lithium and vanadium. He introduced the original chemical terms “catalysis”, “polymer”, “isomer” and “allotrope” in chemistry.
5. Sir Humphry Davy (December 17, 1778 – May 29, 1829)
Sir Humphry Davy was a British chemist. He developed the theory of chemical affinity. He isolated a series of alkali and alkaline-earth elements potassium, sodium, calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium, boron. Later, he discovered the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. He introduced the acid and base concept in chemistry.
6. Amedeo Avogadro (August 9, 1776 – July 9, 1856)
Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro was an Italian chemist. He proposed the theory of molarity and molecular weight. As a tribute to him, the number of elementary entities (atoms, molecules, ions, or other particles) in one mole of a substance, 6.02214199×1023, is known as Avogadro’s number.
7. Friedrich Wöhler (July 31, 1800 – September 23, 1882)
Friedrich Wöhler was a German chemist, well known for the synthesis of urea, but also the first isolation of several elements. Wöhler is considered as a pioneer in organic chemistry because of his accidental synthesis of urea in 1828, which was named as Wöhler synthesis. He was also a co-discoverer of elements beryllium and silicon, as well as the synthesis of calcium carbide, among others. He discovered aluminum metal. In 1834, Wöhler and Liebig published an investigation of the oil of bitter almonds. They proved by their experiments that a group of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms can behave like an element, take the place of an element, and can be exchanged for elements in chemical compounds. He isolated pure nickel metal. His discoveries had a great influence on the development of chemistry.
8. Alfred Nobel (October 21, 1833 – December 10, 1896)
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer and innovator. He was the armaments manufacturer and the inventor of dynamite. He owned Bofors, a major armaments manufacturer, which he had redirected from its previous role as an iron and steel mill. In his last will, he used his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes. The synthetic element nobelium was named after him.
9. Dmitri Mendeleev (February 8, 1834 – February 2, 1907)
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was a Russian chemist and inventor. He is well known as being the creator of the first version of the periodic table of elements based on their chemical properties. Mendeleev also investigated the composition of oil fields and helped to found the first oil refinery in Russia. He invented pyrocollodion; a kind of smokeless powder based on nitrocellulose and organized its manufacture in 1892 for the Russian navy. He was awarded Noble Prize in chemistry for his discovery of a periodic table in 1906.
10. William Ramsay (October 2, 1852 – July 23, 1916)
Sir William Ramsay was a Scottish chemist. He discovered the noble gas argon in 1894. Later, he discovered neon, krypton, xenon, and helium. He received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1904 “in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air”. In addition, he received another Nobel Prize in physics in the same year for the discovery of argon with Lord Rayleigh.