A History of Chemistry in Two Words

As fans of CHF no doubt know, alchemy was once the name given to “the science of matter;” only around the latter half of the sixteenth century did the term chemistry begin to appear in Western sources. The theories behind this shift in use, and the source of the root word – chem – nicely encapsulates the history of chemistry itself, and the questions that remain about its origins. Howard Markel, professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, spoke about the etymology of chemistry a few weeks ago on Science Friday’s “Science Diction” segment:


Interested listeners may want to review the feature story on Arabic alchemy Chemical Heritage published a few years back; the field is one that has much to tell us about the gaps in our current timeline. And linguistic artifacts, more than mere word play, can do much to provide strong and basic evidence for chemistry’s – or alchemy’s – global history.

Science Diction: The Origin of 'Chemistry' [Science Friday]
Al-Kimya: Notes on Arabic Alchemy [Chemical Heritage]

Posted In: History

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