Chemistry has been ever-present in our surroundings from ancient times. The people related to the development of chemistry are large in number and so does the timeline of chemistry.




Chemistry has been ever-present in our surroundings from ancient times. The people related to the development of chemistry are large in number and so does the timeline of chemistry. So, the scientists have subdivided the timeline of chemistry into four parts. They are- A) From prehistoric time to the beginning of the Christian era as black magic, B) From the beginning of the Christian era to the end of the 17th century as alchemy, C) From the end of the 17th century to the mid-19th century as traditional chemistry and D) From mid-9th century to present as modern chemistry.


From prehistoric time to the beginning of the Christian era


In this time, people started to record and list the known materials with the heavenly bodies (planet, star, or other celestial bodies).

465 BC:

Democritus at first to proposes that matter exists in the form of the smallest units. He coined the term 'atoms' to name the smallest unit and every matter is formed with them. 

300 BC:

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher declares that there are only four major elements; fire, air, water and earth, and any other object is nothing but the combination of these four. 


From the beginning of the Christian era to the end of the 17th century as alchemy

The alchemists existed from 300 BC to the 17th century. They took Aristotle’s four elements seriously and worked based on it. Through this period, they worked to change other metals into gold by using their own metal known as the Philosopher's Stone. They also tried to discover an elixir that would prolong life. Though they failed to succeed in both attempts, they learned how to use plant-derived materials and metallic compounds to make the cure for many diseases. But the alchemists extinct because of the former belief of four elements was proven wrong by Robert Boyle when he published the book, ‘The Skeptical Chemist’ in 1661. 

Some more important inventions of this era are written description on the use of lodestones as the compass in the1100s, the invention of the mercury barometer by Torricelli in 1643 and Otto von Guericke constructed the first vacuum pump in 1645. 


From the end of 17th century to mid19th century as traditional chemistry


Joseph Priestley (1733-1804):

Joseph Priestley is best known for the discovery of oxygen although Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Antoine Lavoisier also have a claim to the discovery. He also proposed an electrical inverse-square law in 1767.


Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794)

We regard him as the father of modern chemistry. Besides discovering nitrogen, he described the composition of many organic compounds.


Alessandro Volta (1745-1827)

An Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta was a pioneer in the study of electricity. He invented the electric battery. ‘Volt’ a unit of electricity was named after him. 


Edward Jenner (1749-1823)

He is the pioneer in comparative anatomy and morphology. He developed the smallpox vaccine from cowpox in 1776 and laid the foundations of modern immunology as a science.


Benjamin Franklin (1752)

Besides being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin contributed a lot to physics with his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He also demonstrated that lightning is electricity.


 John Dalton (1766-1844)

John Dalton leads to the initial work in the development of modern atomic theory. He also stated the law of partial pressures of gasses


Amedeo Avogadro (1776-1856)

Equal volumes of gases at the same temperature and pressure contain equal numbers of the molecule and Amedeo Avogadro, an Italian chemist came with this law in 1811.
Joseph Luis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) Gay-Lussac was best known for his invention that water is made of two parts hydrogen and one-part oxygen. He also discovered boron, iodine and acid-base indicators (litmus). Besides forming an improved method for making sulfuric acid he researched to find out the behavior of gasses.


Charles Coulomb (1795)

A French physicist, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb is widely known for developing Coulomb's law. It defines the electrostatic force of attraction and repulsion. He also did important work on friction. The ‘coulomb’, the SI unit of electric charge was named after him.


Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

Michael Faraday’s law about electromagnetic induction is today popularly known as the Faraday Law. It is a law that predicts how a magnetic field will interact with an electric circuit. He also coined the term 'electrolysis'. 


Fredrich Wohler (1800-1882)

We know him as the pioneer of organic chemistry who leads to this part of chemistry by experimenting with the first synthesis of organic compound urea from ammonium cyanate in 1828.


Thomas Graham (1822-1869)

He was a Scottish chemist who studied the diffusion of solutions through membranes and thus established foundations of colloid chemistry.


Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

Vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization are some of the aspects in which Louis Pasteur worked. His vaccines prevented diseases like rabies and anthrax. He also established the pasteurization process that prevents bacteria from contaminating milk and wine. 


Simon Ohm (1826)

Creating his own equipment, Ohm found that there is a direct proportionality between the potential difference (voltage) applied across a conductor and the resultant electric current. This law is now known as Ohm's law. As he stated the law of electrical resistance, the SI unit of resistance is named after him.


Robert Brown (1827)

There are small and random fluctuations in every particle. Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist made this discovery and we know this motion as Brownian motion.


August Kekulé (1829-1896)

August Kekulé is often regarded as the father of aromatic chemistry. He was the first to realize that carbon contains four-valent and also structured benzene ring. 


Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)

Alfred Nobel is the inventor of dynamite, smokeless powder, and blasting gelatin. His massive success in dynamite business allowed him to establish international awards Nobel Prize for achievements in chemistry, physics, and medicine from 1901.


Dmitri Mendeléev (1834-1907)

Many scientists attempted to create a table of elements. Dimitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist was the most successful one because the table elements he proposed in 1869 contained prediction about the undiscovered elements.


James Joule (1843)

After studying the nature of heat, James Joule discovered there is a relationship between heat and mechanical work. This led to the law of conservation of energy, which led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named after him. He published results from experiments showing that heat is a form of energy in 1849.



From the mid-19th century to present as modern chemistry


Heinrich Geissler (1814-1879)

A German glassblower and physicist, Heinrich Geissler invented the Geissler tube in 1857. 


William Crookes (1832-1919)

He used the Geissler tube in his experiments to discover cathode rays made headway in modern atomic theory.


Eugen Goldstein (1850-1930)

A German physicist, Eugen Goldstein was an early investigator of discharge tubes. He discovered the anode rays and is sometimes credited with the discovery of the proton.


W.K. Roentgen (1845-1923)

X-ray is a great discovery of Physics. German physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength and named it X-Ray in 1895. His discovery earned him Nobel Prize in 1901.


Lord Kelvin (1838)

We will always remember Lord Kelvin for his work on heat and electricity. Kelvin temperature scale of his key innovation and his Thomson effect is also a notable one in thermoelectricity. He also developed the second law of thermodynamics in 1874. 


Le Chatelier, H.L. (1850-1936)

We know this French chemist for his fundamental research on equilibrium reactions (Le Chatelier’s Law), combustion of gasses, and iron and steel metallurgy.


Antoine Henri Becquerel (1851-1908)

Antoine Henri Becquerel, the first person to discover evidence of radioactivity. As a recognition of his discovery, he won Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. The SI unit for radioactivity, the becquerel (Bq), is named after him.


Henry Moisson (1852-1907)

He was the first to isolate fluorine from its components in 1886 and won Nobel Prize in 1906. He also developed an electric furnace for making carbides and purifying metals. 


Emil Fischer (1852-1919)

Studied sugars, purines, ammonia, uric acid, enzymes, nitric acid. Pioneer research in stereochemistry. Nobel Prize in 1902.


Sir J.J Thomson (1856-1940)

Sir J.J Thomson researched cathode rays and proved that there is an existence of electrons in 1896. He won Nobel Prize in 1906 jointly with Henry Moisson in physics.


Marie Curie (1867-1934)

With Pierre Curie, she discovered and isolated radium and polonium in 1898. She studied radioactivity of uranium. Curie won Nobel Prize in 1903 along with Becquerel in physics and in chemistry in 1911.


James Clerk Maxwell (1859)

James Clerk Maxwell was the first to relate electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. All his findings were illustrated in his ‘A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field’ and published in 1865. His discoveries began a new era in modern physics.


Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927)

He was one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry. He researched the rates of reaction versus temperature (Arrhenius equation) and electrolytic dissociation. As a reward for his contribution to chemistry, he was awarded Nobel Prize in 1903.


Walther Hermann Nernst (1864-1941)

He was relentlessly working on the development of thermodynamics, physical chemistry, electrochemistry, and solid-state physics. He formulated the Nernst heat theorem paving the way to the third law of thermodynamics. As a recognition of his efforts in thermochemistry, he won Nobel Prize in 1920. He also performed basic research in electrochemistry and thermodynamics.


A. Werner (1866-1919)

Introducing the concept of coordination theory of valence (complex chemistry), A. Werner won Nobel Prize in 1913.


Fritz Haber (1868-1924)

Fritz Haber received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber–Bosch process. This is a method used for synthesizing ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas industrially.


Sir Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)

He at first discovered three types of radioactive particles; alpha, beta, and gamma. He discovered half-life radioactive elements. Besides establishing the idea that the nucleus was small, dense, and positively charged, he assumed that electrons were outside the nucleus. He won Nobel Prize in 1908. 


F.W. Aston (1877-1945)

By using mass spectrograph, F.W. Aston was a pioneer researcher on isotope separation. He became a Nobel laureate in 1922.


Hans Fischer (1881-1945)

Hans Fischer researched on chlorophyll, porphyrins, carotene. He also synthesized the hemin and won Nobel Prize in 1930.


Irving Langmuir (1881-1957)

Surface chemistry, monomolecular films, emulsion chemistry, electric discharges in gasses, cloud seeding are some of the fields in which Irving Langmuir researched and became a Nobel winner in 1932.


Hermann Staudinger (1881-1965)

For studying high-polymer structure, catalytic synthesis, polymerization mechanisms, Hermann Staudinger won Nobel Prize in 1963.


Sir Alexander Flemming (1881-1955)

As a result of his discovery of the antibiotic penicillin in 1928, Sir Alexander Flemming became Nobel laureate in 1945.


Hertz, Heinrich (1887)

He discovered the photoelectric effect and radio waves.


Sir Frederick Banting (1891-1941)

Sir Frederick Banting was the first to isolate the insulin molecule and Nobel Prize in 1923 was given to him.


Sir James Chadwick (1891-1974)

Sir James Chadwick achieved Nobel Prize in 1935. For his discovery of the neutron in 1932.



 chemistry lab work


Harold C Urey (1894-1981)

Besides being one of the leaders of the Manhattan Project, Harold C Urey discovered deuterium and awarded Nobel Prize in 1934.


Werner K Heisenberg (1901-1976)

Werner Heisenberg was best known for his new philosophy of uncertainty and he published his uncertainty principle in 1927. He won Nobel Prize in 1932 for his outstanding contributions to physics. 


Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)

Enrico Fermi is one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century with both theory and experiments. Along with developing quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics, he is best known for his development of the first nuclear reactor ‘Chicago Pile-1’. His developments paved him the way to get Nobel Prize in 1938. He also formulated his theory of beta decay.


Ernest O Lawrence (1901-1958)

Scientists used cyclotron to create the first synthetic elements. For inventing cyclotron, Ernest O Lawrence was awarded Nobel Prize in 1939.


Willard F Libby (1908-1980)

Willard F Libby won Nobel Prize in 1960 as he developed a carbon-14 dating technique. 


Robert Woodward (1917-1979)

Many compounds like cholesterol, chlorophyll, quinine, and cobalamin were synthesized by Robert Woodward resulting in his winning the Nobel Prize in 1965.


De Broglie (1923)

De Broglie won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1929, after the wave-like behavior of matter was first experimentally demonstrated in 1927. His contribution to quantum physics is immense.


James Chadwick (1932)

He is the discoverer of the neutron and won Nobel Prize in 1935.


Glenn Seaborg (1941-1951)

Glenn Seaborg is a contributor to form a revised version of the periodic table by synthesizing several transuranium elements.