Research Paper: Evolution of Chemistry

Pages: 17 (5491 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 17  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Chemistry  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] org, 2013). In following tests, it was found to cause the flame to burn more intensely and to keep the mouse alive longer (acs.org, 2013).

It's also vital to bear in mind that Priestly was a pneumatic chemist; there were many pneumatic chemists during this period as the result of the work of Stephen Hales, the man who had created the pneumatic trough around 500 years earlier (Ihde, 1990). This trough made it possible to isolate airs via decomposition of chemical matter and to gather the air free of contaminants. "Hales developed the apparatus because he was curious to learn how much air was trapped in various solids in non-aerial form. He measured the volume of air which could be driven out of various chemicals, rocks, seeds, and plants by heating" (Ihde, 1990). The overall objective of Hales was incorrect; he was trying to quantify air when he should have been attempting to determine what type of air he was dealing with (Ihde, 199).

Joseph Black

History remembers Joseph Black as he was the one who was responsible for identifying "fixed air," a substance known as carbon dioxide, and for bolstering the entire science of thermodynamics to a level of greater importance and professional scrutiny (educationscotland.gov.uk). It was, however, when Black began to study in Glasgow that his chemistry focus on "magnesia alba" (Cooper, 1999). This substance was essentially a basic magnesium carbonate: "he later submitted for his MD thesis in Edinburgh, and which includes the discovery of what we now call carbon dioxide - he called it 'fixed air'. These experiments involved the very first careful gravimetric (weight) measurements on changes brought about when heating magnesia alba (with release of CO2) and reacting the products with acids or alkalis" (Cooper, 1999). All of these strides and findings essentially foreshadowed the work that Lavoisier would do and set a solid groundwork for modern chemistry (Cooper, 1999).

Once Black worked again at Glasgow as a professor, he collaborated with James Watt (who had gained attention from his work with the stream engine) and together they worked on the concepts of latent heat, and all initial steps in calorimetry, and focused on the measurement of heat (waiting impatiently for the wintertime) so he could finally engage in the experiments which focused on the freezing and melting of water and alcohol -- experiments which eventually led to the concept of heat fusion. "He did similar work establishing the idea of latent heats of vaporization, leading to the general concept of heat capacity or specific heat" (Cooper, 1999). As alluded to earlier, these were very much the early steps in thermodynamics, so his collaboration with James Watts was easily understood (Cooper, 1999).

As already alluded to, Joseph Black started as a student at Glasgow University, and then eventually moved to the position of professor. He ultimately became one of the great chemistry teachers and researchers of the era, engaging in instruction in prominent universities in Scotland (educationscotland.gov.uk, 2013). "His classes were very popular, and his research explained new ideas about specific and 'latent heat' -- a term he introduced"(educationscotland.gov.uk, 2013). However, it's important to distinguish that one of the overwhelming contributions that Black made to chemistry was based on the fact that he set a precedent for it to be taken seriously. For instance at the University of Glasgow, Black was on the one who really listened to the student complaints regarding how the accommodations for chemistry were completely inadequate. "A committee was set up to examine the problem to which Black described the existing laboratory as small and damp, with unlaid floors, unplastered walls, and requiring the lecturer to teach in one room while the demonstrations were in the laboratory. As a result the University agreed to equip a new laboratory and lecture room, at the cost of £500" (chem.gla.ac.uk). It was during this time in 1766 that Black gave up on research and committed himself exclusively to teaching: he was a devoted and successful teacher, something which can be viewed by the fact that the number of students attending his lectures increased each year (chem.gla.ac.uk).

While this might seem like a small feat, it actually is not: "His lectures had a powerful effect in popularising chemistry, and attendance at them even came to be a fashionable amusement" (chem.gla.ac.uk). However, a high value placed on teaching was not the only reason that Black made such a commitment to teaching: he also had poor health which caused him to spit blood (as a result of strain, either mental or physical); in order to maintain the feeblest states of health, Black had to take the greatest care with himself (chem.gla.ac.uk). He eventually died peacefully in his home at the end of the 18th century in December of 1799; like other chemists, Black never married but remained close to his family (chem.gla.ac.uk). However, the reasons why Black never married were not because he wasn't "of a gentle and pleasing countenance" (Cooper, 1999) as history claims he was both popular with the ladies and played the flute well (Cooper, 1999). He had an active social life and was friends with all the great thinkers of the era such as Adam Smith and David Hume, and attended some of the more prestigious social clubs along with (very rarely) "less salubrious premises" (Cooper, 1999).

Like other chemists discussed here, such as Cavendish, it's harder to determine the level of popularity or acclaim that Black reached during his life since he shied away from publicity. Black was remarkably indifferent to fame and resented the publicity which came with the authorship of texts and original ideas in chemistry, that Black actually never published his most important work on latent heat (chem.gla.ac.uk).

Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish was an extremely shy and eccentric individual and history has not forgotten that, and descriptions of his unique nature seem to often go hand in hand with descriptions of his contributions towards history. For example, as one historian explains, even the only single portrait of him was one which had to be sketched in secret, portraying the scientist from a distance (famouscientists.org, 2013).

One of the major contributions that Cavendish made to science was that he was one of the first people to see hydrogen gas as "a distinct substance for which he calculated their densities as well as the densities of several other gases. He showed that it produced dew, which appeared to be water, upon being burned. He also found it to be much less dense than air" (famouscientists.org, 2013). Cavendish also looked into the byproducts of fermentation, demonstrating that the emission from the fermentation of sugar, is actually indifferentiatable from "fixed air" which can be viewed as a necessary part of chalk and magnesia -- what we today call carbon dioxide (famouscientists.org, 2013). Though these were all significant findings, there was one observation that was absolutely amazing: Cavendish was glinting air with extra oxygen (in order to create oxides of nitrogen) over alkali until all particles had achieved maximum absorption and demonstrated that a small amount of gas could not be further minimized (famouscientists.org, 2013). Cavendish reached the following conclusion: "so that if there is any part of the phlogisticated air of our atmosphere which differs from the rest, and cannot be reduced to nitrous acid, we may safely conclude that it is not more than 1/120 part of the whole" (famouscientists.org, 2013). Fundamentally what Cavendish had done was to observe the noble gases of the atmosphere, a feat which no scientist before him had achieved.

Much has been made about Cavendish's peculiar behavior with other people; in fact there is a tremendous amount of speculation today that he might have had autism, which would explain his bizarre behavior (Brignell, 2010). This speculation regarding autism has to do directly with the fact that this chemist exhibited a great deal of characteristics which could be linked to autism: "As well as displaying an obsessive attention to detail and intense concentration, he was noted for his trouble relating to other people and spoke very hesitantly. One contemporary declared that 'Cavendish probably uttered fewer words in the course of his life than any man who lived to four-score years'" (Brignell, 2010). For instance, one of the major traits of autism is connected to the fact that autistic people often decide to spend time on their own, instead of with other people: Cavendish himself even explained that he had a tremendous love of being solitary (Brignell, 2010). Cavendish truly tried to avoid being with other people, aside from going to the weekly meetings at the Royal Society Club (Brignell, 2010). Scholars refer to him as being "abnormally reclusive" with no relationships outside of his family and only able to communicate with the servants through written notes (Brignell, 2010). "He was particularly shy around women so, to avoid encountering his housekeeper, he added a back staircase to his house. His staff were told… [END OF PREVIEW]

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