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Home  / GENERAL CHEMISTRY Textbook / Chapter 2. Aim of chemistry as a science

Chapter 2. Aim of chemistry as a science

In the course of its development, chemistry, like any other science, has undergone a number of stages. Each stage has invariably led to a better understanding of phenomena that are studied by chemistry. Chemistry involves the structure of substances, their properties and transformation. Indeed, chemists have always been interested in the kind of particles that substances are made of, which properties of these particles define the various substances that surround us, which of them define those transformations of chemical substances that we observe in nature and in experiments.

Everything that surrounds us is made up of substances, and the properties of various substances are different. For example, things made of the substance called wood or cotton can burn, while things made of metal cannot. Indeed, there are ever so many different substances: wood, metals, gasoline, water, gas, etc., all of which differ by their substances.

Properties of substances are diverse as far as color, solidity, electrical conductivity, etc. are concerned. Besides, substances can enter various processes of chemical transformation as a result of which we get new substances. For example, gasoline, a fluid, turns into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) when it burns inside a motor. Methane, a gas, used in gas stoves for cooking, as a result of several chemical transformations, performed at large chemical plants, is transformed into chemical fertilizer.

Chemistry answers such questions as: How are substances constructed? Why do substances differ from each other? How does the transformation of substances take place?

Chemistry, like physics, is a fundamental science. However, physics includes the study of energy and force, while chemistry mainly studies substances and their transformations.

General chemistry studies the fundamentals necessary for understanding organic, inorganic, physical, and biological chemistries, but for the comprehension of science as a whole.

General chemistry is among those subjects that educated people cannot do without. Indeed, a person, ignorant of chemistry, would be out of touch with modern society; he would be unable to take part in an ordinary conversation in the 21st century!

Indeed, a person without the basic knowledge of chemistry is unable to understand the notes on labels that accompany foodstuffs. He cannot take part in conversations that occur in our modern society concerning such important matters as chemical weapons, narcotics, smoking, alcoholism, etc. Such a person cannot understand the differences in the brands of gasoline at the filling stations, he does not understand why cholesterol can be harmful, or which detergents are dangerous and why, etc., etc.

Professions directly connected with chemistry (nuclear fission chemists, pharmacists, chemists-analysts) are included in the first ten most prestigious and most well paid professions. Without the knowledge of chemistry, one cannot become a doctor, a judge, a lawyer, or a businessman. Besides, the prosecutor and the counsel for the defense call upon most every American citizen to serve his country in the capacity of a juror from time to time where he/she must understand the various proofs offered by the prosecutors or the lawyers. Indeed, the basis of many proofs lies in the knowledge of chemical analyses. 

What does it mean to know chemistry? This means: to understand the physical sense of chemical phenomena. Physical sense includes the explanations of chemical phenomena arising from the knowledge of physics and mathematics, already gained in high school. Thus, in order to ease assimilation when studying chemistry, the student should get a review dose of physics and mathematics.

When studying general chemistry, the students learn about the structure of the smallest particle of a substance — the atom. They learn about the various properties of atoms, they define the substances of things surrounding us, they learn how chemical and physical transformations of substances take place, how the structure of substances defines their physical and chemical properties.

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