Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with compounds composed of atoms, i.e. elements, and molecules, i.e. combinations of atoms: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other compounds. Chemistry addresses topics such as how atoms and molecules interact via chemical bonds to form new chemical compounds. There are four types of chemical bonds: covalent bonds, in which compounds share one or more electron(s); ionic bonds, in which a compound donates one or more electrons to another compound to produce ions: cations and anions; hydrogen bonds; and Van der Waals force bonds. See glossary of chemistry.
In the scope of its subject, chemistry occupies an intermediate position between physics and biology. It is sometimes called the central science because it provides a foundation for understanding both basic and applied scientific disciplines at a fundamental level. Examples include plant chemistry (botany), the formation of igneous rocks (geology), how atmospheric ozone is formed and how environmental pollutants are degraded (ecology), the properties of the soil on the moon (astrophysics), how medications work (pharmacology), and how to collect DNA evidence at a crime scene (forensics).
The history of chemistry spans a period from very old times to the present. Since several millennia BC, civilizations were using technologies that would eventually form the basis of the various branches of chemistry. Examples include extracting metals from ores, making pottery and glazes, fermenting beer and wine, extracting chemicals from plants for medicine and perfume, rendering fat into soap, making glass, and making alloys like bronze. Chemistry was preceded by its protoscience, alchemy, which is an intuitive but non-scientific approach to understanding the constituents of matter and their interactions. It was unsuccessful in explaining the nature of matter and its transformations, but, by performing experiments and recording the results, alchemists set the stage for modern chemistry. Chemistry as a body of knowledge distinct from alchemy began to emerge when a clear differentiation was made between them by Robert Boyle in his work The Sceptical Chymist (1661). While both alchemy and chemistry are concerned with matter and its transformations, the crucial difference was given by the scientific method that chemists employed in their work. Chemistry is considered to have become an established science with the work of Antoine Lavoisier, who developed a law of conservation of mass that demanded careful measurement and quantitative observations of chemical phenomena. The history of chemistry is intertwined with the history of thermodynamics, especially through the work of Willard Gibbs.
The word chemistry comes from alchemy, which referred to an earlier set of practices that encompassed elements of chemistry, metallurgy, philosophy, astrology, astronomy, mysticism and medicine. It is often seen as linked to the quest to turn lead or another common starting material into gold, though in ancient times the study encompassed many of the questions of modern chemistry being defined as the study of the composition of waters, movement, growth, embodying, disembodying, drawing the spirits from bodies and bonding the spirits within bodies by the early 4th century Greek-Egyptian alchemist Zosimos. An alchemist was called a 'chemist' in popular speech, and later the suffix "-ry" was added to this to describe the art of the chemist as "chemistry".
The modern word alchemy in turn is derived from the Arabic word al-kīmīā (الكیمیاء). In origin, the term is borrowed from the Greek χημία or χημεία. This may have Egyptian origins since al-kīmīā is derived from the Greek χημία, which is in turn derived from the word Kemet, which is the ancient name of Egypt in Egyptian. Alternately, al-kīmīā may derive from χημεία, meaning "cast together".
The current model of atomic structure is the quantum mechanical model. Traditional chemistry starts with the study of elementary particles, atoms, molecules, substances, metals, crystals and other aggregates of matter. This matter can be studied in solid, liquid, or gas states, in isolation or in combination. The interactions, reactions and transformations that are studied in chemistry are usually the result of interactions between atoms, leading to rearrangements of the chemical bonds which hold atoms together. Such behaviors are studied in a chemistry laboratory.
The chemistry laboratory stereotypically uses various forms of laboratory glassware. However glassware is not central to chemistry, and a great deal of experimental (as well as applied/industrial) chemistry is done without it.