Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Unit 1: Matter and the Rise of Atomic Theory—The Art of the Meticulous


Unit Overview

Since the first time early humans lit a fire, cooked food, fermented fruit, or flaked a stone axe, we have been manipulating the matter around us. This unit explores how chemistry evolved from adapting materials for practical purposes to a science that systematically offers solutions to the world's challenges. It is a story that will start with Democritus around 400 BCE, taking us through the early Arab chemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, to the meticulous work of the Middle Age alchemists, and finally to the birth of chemistry as a science during the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. In the accompanying video, we explore the Silicon Age, where the goal of manipulating and purifying matter at the atomic scale is making possible today's technological advances such as cell phones and solar panels.

by Jennifer Weeks

Jennifer Weeks


  1. Introduction
  2. Chemistry as a science
  3. Chemistry in the Ancient World
  4. Chemistry in the Arab World
  5. Pre-Chemistry in Medieval Europe—Alchemists and Apothecaries
  6. Modernizing Chemistry—Antoine Lavoisier
  7. The Properties of Chemical Compounds—Claude Louis Berthollet and Joseph Proust
  8. Early Atomic Theory—John Dalton
  9. Further Reading

Download Unit 1 Online Text


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