A Volatile History

  • 1500


    Concluded that the earth was made of salt, sulfur, and mercury. He also concluded that these were an aid in making medicines. Salt would heal wounds. sulfur was combustible, and mercury was liquidy and volatile.
  • Johaan Becker

    Proposed that the power of fire was caused by an element called phlogiston. Supposedly it was a weightless, colorless, odorless, and tasteless substance which would cause things to burn to their true form. Many people believed this and caused them to overlook hidden elements that were not yet discovered.
  • Hennig Brand

    Brand believed that he could create gold from human urine. He distilled the urine down to a paste, then heated it a high temperature for several days. Eventually there was a smoke that revealed tiny combustible fragments known as phosphorus.
  • Robert Boyle

    Robert's experiment was to use half a grain of phosphorus, and 6 times the weight of common powder of sulfur. They were put in a piece of white paper, rubbed it with the haft of a knife, and made a fire occur. In his book, The Skeptical Chemist, he shared his discoveries with other scientists which helped bring alchemy into chemistry.
  • Henry Cavendish

    He added a metal zinc to an acid. As bubbles began to appear on the zinc, Cavendish started to collect the gas. The gas had no color so he then lit a match upon it and a pop occurred. He claimed to have discovered a new type of air which he called inflammable air or what was known as phlogiston. It really happened to be hydrogen which formed water upon combustion.
  • Joseph Priestly

    He was amazed by mixed air, so he mixed it with water and invented the first fizzy drink. He then experimented with mercuric oxide. He put it in a test tube to collect any gas it may create as he heated it. He then inserted liquid mercury which would trap the gas. He placed it upside down in a mercuric bath where the mercuric oxide sat at the top. He heated up the powder and noticed the level of the mercury dropped. The mercuric oxide was broken into it's components. He discovered oxygen.
  • Antoine Lavoisier

    He did an experiment where he would take a piece of metal and heat it. Turns out that it increased in weight contradicting the phlogiston theory. He thought maybe it isn't given off when something is heated, but instead it may be absorbing some other air. Antoine would repeat Priestly's experiment but reversed. Noticed that the same element in the air was the same amount at the start and end of the transformation of mercury into mercuric oxide. Claimed phlogiston was false and named it oxygen
  • Humphrey Davy

    In 1807, Humphrey Davy, He used a copper coin connected to a zinc washer through a copper wire. He used glasses filled with saltwater and connected the copper coin on one side via a lamp with the zinc washer. He had discovered electricity and believed there was a chemical reaction. He heated up an element called potash and used electricity on it which resulted in potassium.