Chemistry overview

February 7, 2010 | Comments Off on Chemistry overview

Chemistry is a physical science that is concerned with the properties and characteristics of physical matter and the changes and processes that happen when different substances are mixed. Chemistry is often called the “central science”  because it links the other natural sciences together.

The focus of chemistry is to study and understand the interactions that take place between chemical substances which are called chemical reactions. These reactions can occur at the atomic level and the resultant changes in matter and energy are what chemical scientists are keen to document and understand.

Modern chemistry is the natural progression of a much older practice of alchemy. Alchemy had much more of a philosophical and spiritual outlook, although practitioners were fascinated by the various transformations of substances when they were mixed in the correct way. The most famous of these pursuits was the quest to turn base metals into gold.

The study of chemistry requires an understanding of the fundamental building blocks of matter, and how these combine to form substances. The basic unit of all chemistry is the atom that consists of a nucleus of protons and neutrons with a number of electrons. Atoms can be grouped as elements, according to the number of the protons they contain.

A molecule is a collection of atoms that are held together by bonds and is the smallest indivisible portion of any substance (apart from an atom) that contains the exact chemical specification of that substance.

Each element has its own unique physical configuration, although certain elements that have similar characteristics to each other will often behave in a similar manner. This was observed by a Russian chemist called Dmitri Mendeleev who came up with a way to classify and organise these elements. This method is known as the periodic table.

Chemistry has helped to define many of the chemical reactions that take place in the natural world and has greatly furthered our understanding of the world around us. In the modern world chemistry is a fundamental process in our daily lives.