HISTORY OF CHEMISTRY
"Mendeleyev was a man who could not bear any kind of disorder and chaos," writes Academician A. A. Boikov. "This is why at the beginning of his course in chemistry at St. Petersburg University, where he had been appointed to the department of chemistry, D. I. had to establish order in the chemical elements."
By comparison of chemical properties of different elements researchers had long ago discovered that elements could be placed in several groups according to similarity in their properties.
Mendeleyev applied in his system the principles that he developed and included in his table the listing of the elements according to increasing weights.
Because he had the insight to see that many elements had not yet been discovered, he left open spaces in the Periodic Table. For example, he predicted that an unknown element with alomic weight of 44 would be found for the space following calcium. And in 1879 the Swedish chemist Lars Fredric Nilson discovered scandium.
Mendeleyev's table developed into modern Periodic Table, one of the most important tools in chemistry. The vertical columns of the modern Periodic Table are called groups and the horizontal rows are called periods. The atomic number of an element is the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom of that element. The modern Periodic Table not only clearly organizes all the elements, it lucidly illustrates that they form "families" in rational groups, based on their characteristics.
Chemistry is an experimental and theoretical study of the composition of matter and the changes that take place in matter. A chemical change involves changes in composition and in properties. Chemical changes are usually accompanied by the liberation or absorption of energy in the form of light, heat or electricity.
All forms of matter consist of either pure substances or mixtures of two or more pure substances. Elements are the building blocks of matter. Compounds are combinations of elements. Most of the elements are metals and most of them will unite with other elements and form compounds. The formation of a compound from simpler substances is known as synthesis. Analysis is the process of breaking down a compound into simpler substances or its elements and thus determining its composition. The composition of a pure substance never changes.
Every substance has physical and chemical properties. Physical properties include colour, smell, solubility, density, hardness and boiling and melting points. Chemical properties include the behaviour with other materials.
Matter exists in three states: the solid, the liquid, and the gaseous state. A substance (usually) can be transformed from one state to another under the changes of its temperature.
Chemistry is so much a part of our lives that it is very easily taken for granted. Metals, glass, plastics, dyes, drugs, paints, paper, soap, detergents, explosives and perfumes are all made of chemicals.
THE AGE OF POLYMERS
Life depends fundamentally on organic polymers. If it were not so, we wouldn't have food, clothing, shelter and transportation.
Indeed, nearly all the material needs of man could be supplied by natural organic products. The list of these materials and things made from them might be very long: wood, fur, leather, wool, cotton, silk, rubber, oils, paper, paint and so on. The organic polymers which these things are made from include: proteins, cellulose, starch, resins, and a few other classes of compounds.
But for the complexity and fragility of the molecules of the natural organic polymers they wouldn't have defied the attempts to analyse their molecular structure until very recently.
There would be no industry of man-made organic polymers, were it not for modern methods of physical and chemical analyses which uncovered the principles that govern the properties of the natural polymers. One could list the principal products as fibres, synthetic rubbers, coatings, adhesives and a lot of materials called "plastics". Plastics and synthetic coating are already in common use. It is desirable that they should be used on a large scale, and get further developed.
Synthetic polymers now available already possess several of the properties required in a structural material. They are light in weight,-easily transported, easily repaired, highly resistant to corrosion and solvents, and satisfactorily resistant to moisture. It would be necessary to add that they have long-lived durability and resistance to high temperatures. A very important question could arise over whether synthetic polymers could be made inexpensive enough to compete with the structural materials such as metals and ceramics. The answer could be - "yes".
It might seem odd that man came rather late to the investigation of organic polymers as the principal means of supporting life. The natural polymers such as proteins, cellulose and others dominated his existence and even in ancient times people used these materials.
Yet as late as the end of the 19th century polymer chemistry got little attention.
Chemists attacked sugar, glycerol, fatty acids and other ordinary organic compounds dissolving, precipitating, crystallizing and distilling them to learn what these substances were composed of.
But only feeble efforts were made to investigate such common materials as wood, starch, wool, and silk. The substances composing these materials couldn't be crystallized from solutions, nor could they be isolated by distillation.
It was only in the 20th century that the scientists began thorough investigation of these materials. Having used some powerful physical instruments, an electron microscope, viscosimeter. X-ray diffraction apparatus, they could have revealed the polymers in all their intricacy. Their molecules were incredibly large, the molecular weights running as high as millions of units, whereas simple organic substances such as, for instance, sugar and gasolene have molecular weights in the range of only about 50-500.
The giant molecules can be composed of a large number of repeating units, they being given the name "polymer" from the Greek word poly (many) and meros (a part). Many polymers have the form of long, flexible chains. If the chemists had not found that out, they wouldn't have been able to synthesize artificial polymers. This has led to the establishment of industries producing synthetic fibres and numerous polymeric materials, many of which were less expensive and superior in various ways to the natural materials.