Everything you can think of, from the book you are holding, to the chair that you are sitting on, to the water that you drink, is made up of matter. But matter is not just things that you can touch. It includes the air that you breathe. The planets in the Universe, living things such as insects, and non-living things such as rocks are also made of matter. All matter is made up tiny particles called atoms, which are themselves made up of even smaller particles, called subatomic particles. Chemistry involves studying what matter is made of, and how atoms join together to make different things.

Creation of Matter

Most scientists believe that all the matter in the Universe was created in an explosion called the Big Bang. Great heat and energy followed the explosion. Then, after just a few seconds, some bundles of the energy turned into tiny particles. The particles turned into the atoms that make up the Universe that we live in today.

Non-Living Matter

Most matter in the Universe is non-living. This means that it does not grow, reproduce, or move itself about. A good example of non-living matter is the rock that makes up the Earth that we live on.

Living Matter

The Earth is home to many living things, including plants and animals of all kinds. Although a butterfly seems very different from a rock, they are both made of atoms. The atoms just join up in a different way to create something else.

Particles of Matter

Scientists use a bubble chamber to identify subatomic particles. The bubble chamber contains liquid hydrogen near its boiling point. Subatomic particles travelling through the liquid cause it to boil, leaving trails of bubbles. Although the particles are invisible, the trails that they leave can be seen and are different for each type of particle.

Founders of Chemistry

The French chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1743-94) is thought of as the founder of chemistry. Antoine showed that burned substances are heavier than unburned substances. He concluded that this was because the burned substances gained a gas, oxygen. Marie Lavoisier (1758-1856) worked with her husband by translating scientific works and campaigning for acceptance for their ideas.

Origins of Chemistry

Hundreds of years ago, before anyone knew about atoms, people called alchemists tried to find out what things were made of. They tried to turn metals such as lead into gold. They also searched for a medicine that would give eternal life. They tried without success. Many alchemists were women. One name for alchemy, opus mulierum, is Latin for women’s work.

From the Dorling Kindersley Science Encyclopaedia