History of Matter


Democritus (Greece)

460 BC - 370 BC

*Observations/Experiments/Evidence – Expanded the atomic theory of Leucippus. Hypothesized with different characteristics of a singular atom.
Discoveries/Conclusions - Gave the first hypothesis of the atomic model and first description of the atom.
Contribution – Said his first atomic model was a round sphere, with no electrons, protons, or neutrons. Helped other scientists further look into the science of the atom. He said all matters consist of invisible particles called atoms, said atoms are indestructible, atoms are solid but invisible, and said atoms are homogeneous. Lastly said atoms differ in size, shape, mass, position, and arrangement (depending on the material is what type of atom it is).

Aristotle (Greece)

335 BC - 323 BC

Aristotle proposed that there were five elements: water, air, fire, earth, and aether. The first four were proposed by Empedocles, another Greek philosopher. Aether, as Aristotle theoreticized, was the elements that made up “heavenly bodies and spheres” AKA planets + stars; although he was wrong, Aristotle still contributed by saying that elements

Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan (Persia)

721 CE - 815 CE

Referred to as the father of Arab Chemistry. He emphasised systematic experimentation and is credited with the invention of many types of basic chemical laboratory equipment. He also discovered many types of chemical substances and processes. Paved the way for many of the future Islamic alchemists.

Albertus Magnus (Germany)

1193 - 1280

Worked with the nature of light, especially the formation of rainbows. Hypothesized that the speed of light was finite. Said the Milky way is an assembly of stars that received the light of the sun and argued that figures visible on the face of the moon were just configurations not reflections from the Earth. He also studied the reflection of light by using mirrors and certain crystals.

Robert Boyle (England/Ireland)


Robert Boyle wrote Boyle’s law, which stated that gas pressure increased as the size of the container decreased. He was also a believer of corpuscularism (the study of particles and their motions). He defined corpuscles (particles) as “certain primitive and simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being made of any other bodies, or of one another, are the ingredients of which all those called perfectly mixt bodies are immediately compounded, and into which they are ultimately resolved.” Boyle also observed the weight gain of metals as they were heated.

Lavoisier (France)


A meticulous experimenter who revolutionized chemistry. He established the law of conservation of mass, determined that combustion and respiration are caused by chemical reactions with oxygen (he named it), and he helped systemize chemical nomenclature. He also took an active part in the French Revolution, and was killed by the guillotine in 1794.

Henry Cavendish (England)


Cavendish is credited for defining the characteristics and nature of hydrogen, correctly guessing it had an 2 to one proportion in water. He conducted investigations to find the composition of common (atmospheric air). He made carbon dioxide (which he called fixed air) by dissolving alkalis in acids.

John Dalton (England)


*Observations/Experiments/Evidence –First experimented with pressure and weights of different gases. Studied rainfall and weather, noticed that when water evaporated in occupied the same space as air. Experimented to determine the relative sizes and weights along with relative numbers of atoms in combinations. Led to investigation of the number and weight of all chemical elementary particles which enter into any sort of combination one with another.
*Discoveries/Conclusions – Said different particles of different gases are different sizes. His discoveries support the law of conservation of mass and law of constant composition. Also came up with a new law - the law of multiple proportions.
Contribution – He made the law of multiple proportions - if two elements react and form more than one compound the masses of one can that combine with a mass of the other are in the ration of small whole numbers (some of his ideas were later proven incorrect). His work with atomic theory said - 1) every element is composed of atoms 2) all atoms of an element are the same in all properties, but are different than atoms of another element 3) Chemical reactions can not change an atom of one element into an atoms of another, atoms are neither created or destroyed 4) When atoms of more than one element combine, compounds are formed.

Avogrado (Italy)


Avogadro developed his theory that equal volumes of gases under the same conditions of temperature and pressure will contain equal numbers of molecules. This is known as Avogadro's law. He contributed to molecular theory, helping distinguish the difference between molecules and atoms, although he called our modern atom as an “elementary molecule”. His theory influenced other great scientists such as Rudolf Clausius. Avogadro is considered to founder of the atomic-molecular theory.

Mendeleev (Russia)


Mendeleev created the periodic table of elements, the most recognizable piece in science, which arranges the chemical elements in order of atomic mass. Using the periodic table, he predicted the existence and properties of new chemical elements and made it easy to see and remember properties of already discovered elements.

Marie and Pierre Curie (Paris)


Best known for the pioneering work in the study of radioactivity which led to the discovery of the elements radium and polonium. Marie and Pierre worked at Pierre’s Laboratory in Paris, where they studied radiation coming from uranium compounds. Marie unexpectedly made the discovery that uranium pitchblende and the mineral chalcocite emitted four times as much radiation as expected = a small amount of unknown radiating element. Marie got a doctorate for her thesis of radioactive substances and together they won a Nobel Prize for the discovery of radioactivity.

JJ Thomson


*Observations/Experiments/Evidence – Used the study of cathode rays to determine that the matter that makes up the rays were not hydrodgen atoms (proposed by William Prout and Norman Lockyer), but smaller, negatively charged particles called corpuscles (electrons)
*Discoveries/Conclusions – Thomson proposed that these corpuscles made up an atom. He was also able to meausre the mass and charge of an atom, and developed the plum pudding atom model (electrons surrounded by positive matter).

Contribution – JJ Thomson's discovery of the electron greatly contributed to later models of the atom.

Rutherford (England)


Observations/Experiments/Evidence – Led the Geiger-Marsden experiment with colleagues. This experiment demonstrated the nuclear nature of atoms by deflecting alpha particles passing through a sheet of thin gold foil. Led to the discovery of the nucleus.
Discoveries/Conclusions – Rutherford was the first person to knowingly split the nucleus, he discovered alpha and beta rays, set forth the laws of radioactive decay, and identified alpha particles as helium nuclei.
Contribution – Was a central physicist in the study of radioactivity step on of nuclear physics. He overturned Thomson’s plum-pudding model in 1911 with his gold foil experiment that showed the atom has a tiny, heavy nucleus. Rutherford Model showed most of atom was open space and offered no resistance to the passage of alpha particles and most of the mass of an atom is in the nucleus.

Niels Bohr (Denmark)


*Observations/Experiments/Evidence – Introduced idea of levels of electrons; Bohr improved on the theory made by Rutherford, who said that an atom has a nucleus center surrounded by a cloud of weightless electrons. This meant that as electrons lost energy, the electrons would spiral down to the nucleus in a small amount of time, which meant that all atoms were unstable.
*Discoveries/Conclusions – Niels Bohr establishes the theory that electrons were organized on levels based on the amount of energy they had. The only way an electron could gain or lose energy was by moving up or down energy levels within the cloud of electrons. He also proposed that electrons emit energy as radiation.
Contribution – Bohr’s theory advanced scientists’ understanding of atom and contributed greatly to the study of theoretical physics. The Bohr atom model explained the mechanics of atoms and behavior of elements based on the energy levels of an atom.

Louis de Broglie (France)


Experimented with the electron. Said the electron must move around a nucleus. Had ideas of an electron with the properties of a wave. Said an electron would behave under certain conditions as if it were radiant energy. Einstein agreed with Broglie’s work and eventually Broglie’s work reached scientists around the world.

Heisenberg (Germany)


Helped establish the Theory of Quantum Mechanics. His theory and application resulted in the discovery of allotropic forms of hydrogen. He said an electron always has a position in space at any given time. Was one of the first people to use matrix equations. He worked on plasma physics, thermonuclear processes, elementary particles, and Atomic Physics.

Schrodinger (Austria)


*Observations/Experiments/Evidence – Schrodinger liked the concept of atomic structure defying laws of conservation. He developed an eqaution to find an electron at a given point, thus creating the quantum mechanical model. He found inspiration from Niels Bohr's atomic model and studied under physicist Ernest Rutherford.

*Discoveries/Conclusions – Schrodinger develops his own theory that electrons orbited the nucleus of an atom as a cloud. The closer to the nucleus, the denser the cloud - a higher possibility of finding an electron at a given location.

Contribution – Schrodinger advances atomic theory. His idea of an electron cloud is accepted my many scientists today. He developed a mathematical equation (coined Schrodinger's Equation) that showed the wave-like behavior that atoms exhibited. This equation greatly advanced the field of quantum mechanics. His other well-known legacy of Schrodinger's Cat, is also an important contribution to science.

James Chadwick (England)


Made a fundamental discovery in the domain of nuclear science - he proved the existence of neutrons. Chadwick proposed that there were neutrons in the nucleus of an atom and that the weight of a neutron was similar to that of a proton. Prepared the way towards the fission of uranium and towards the creation of the atomic bomb. Won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935.

Irene Joliot-Curie (France)


Worked on natural and artificial radioactivity, transmutation of elements, and nuclear physics. Did research on the action of neutrons on heavy elements, which was an important step to discover uranium fission. Was an advocate for science and chemistry, working as a professor and helped construct centers for studies of nuclear fission.

Lise Meitner (Austria/Germany/Sweden)


Discovered the radiationless transition called the Auger effect. After fleeing Germany during WW2 she moved to Sweden to continue her work. The experiments done there provided evidence for nuclear fission which eventually led to the Manhattan Project. Meitner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1944 for her work in the field of chemistry.

Linus Pauling (United States)


Linus Pauling published a paper on his research on the chemical bonding between atoms. In his book, Pauling explained his idea of the alpha helix, which put proteins in a spiraling shape. Pauling's ideas influenced other scientists such as Watson and Crick, who discovered the double helix shape that DNA exhibited. He helped connect chemical bonds and their role in the structure of complex substances. Pauling is one of the main founders of quantum chemistry and molecular biology.

Rosalind Franklin (Paris)


Responsible for much of the discovery work surrounding the structure of DNA. Was at first not allowed to work on the model, because she was a woman. With reluctance she convinced a higher scientist to let her work on the project and took what he called the most beautiful x-rays of the DNA model ever taken, she became very close to solving the DNA model.

William Ramsey (England)


He demonstrated how helium is continually produced during the process of radioactive decay in radium (a crucial importance to modern understanding of nuclear reactions). He also published several papers on the nitrogen oxides. He discovered the atoms argon, helium, neon, krypton, and xenon, making up the noble gases


Printing Press (Holy Roman Empire)


Developed by Johannes Gutenberg; Helped to quickly take notes and collect data, and later publish it. At first, the most printed text was the Bible, sooner many other documents surfaced. The use of the printing press made sharing ideas easier because texts could be mass produced.

Vacuum Pump (Tube)


Von Guericke invented the vacuum pump (not vacuum tube). The vacuum pump which removes gas molecules from a sealed volume in order to leave behind a partial volume.

Electric Generator


A generator that produces static electricity at high voltage and with a low continuous current.

Precision Balance to .0000g


First invented in 1932, but patented March 23, 1937. Helped to get a more accurate measurement, especially for items with a small mass. The invention of the precision balance gave scientists another way to quatify matter.