Monday, 21 January 2013

Atomic Chemistry

Atom, smallest unit of a chemical element that can exist. In ancient Greek philosophy the word “atom” was used to describe the smallest bit of matter that could be conceived of. This “fundamental particle”, to use the present-day term for this concept, was thought of as indestructible; in fact, the Greek word for atom (atomos) means “not divisible”. 

Knowledge about the size and nature of the atom did not begin to be acquired until long after the beginnings of experimental science in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although many of the new “experimental philosophers” believed in the reality of atoms, the progress of science owed little to the idea. The first quantitative explanation of the behaviour of matter in terms of atoms was attempted by Daniel Bernoulli in 1738, but his work was largely ignored. However, chemistry was discovering things about matter that only the idea of atoms could explain. 

Chemists recognized that all liquids, gases, and solids can be broken down into their ultimate components, or elements. For example, salt is a chemical compound formed when the elements sodium and chlorine react together and become joined in an intimate form known as a chemical compound. Air, by contrast, was found to consist of a mixture of the gases nitrogen and oxygen, which do not react with each other.


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