Over the course of our lives and our ancestors' before us, chemistry has changed our lives drastically. Over the centuries, we have figured out how to produce lights, find cures for diseases, discover radioactivity, and as we all like to refer to it in chemistry class, form the periodic table of elements. These have all helped us through our daily lives whether we realize it or not. Keep reading below to discover 5 chemistry discoveries that changed the world. 


1. Penicillin

penicillin 2.jpg

The first discovery was penicillin. It was discovered on Friday, September 28 by Alexander Fleming. He discovered it by observing a mould that was mistakenly left out and was growing around a Petri dish. However, unable to spark interest in his fellow scientists to help him extract and stabilize the antibacterial compound, he abandoned his project. It wasn't until Howard Florey and his team were able to successfully produce penicillin to aid humans. In 1940, it effectively cured bacterial infection in mice and was successfully used on the first human in 1940. Because of its proven effectiveness, Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau created a full on production plant of penicillin in 1944. Because of this heroic discovery, humans no longer die from minor bacterial infections. 

2. Haber-Bosch Process

Haber-Bosch Process.jpg

The second discovery was the Haber-Bosch Process. In short, it is the combustion of atmospheric hydrogen with nitrogen to produce ammonia. This played a pivotal role when it was turned into a crop fertilizer, giving consumable plants the ability to intake nitrogen. This created a snowball effect with more and more plants being produced because of the process, creating a rapid growth in the food chain. It is said that 80% of the nitrogen in human tissue originated from the Haber-Bosch process. This fact alone explains why there's been such an exponential population boom in the last century.  This is because the ammonia was used to produce nitric acid, a precursor to nitrates. Overall, the process has posed many benefits and detriments over the past century.

3. Polythene


The third discovery is polythene. From hard hats to plastic bags, it's the most common plastic found in products today. In 1898, Hans von Pechmann discovered something waxy at the bottom of his tube. The funny thing is that he was studying something completely different, making the discovery accidental. He and his fellow scientists studied the substance and found out that it was composed of very long molecular chains. These chains were later termed polymethylene. Kinda like penicillin, the study of the new substance was put to a halt until 1933. At Imperial Chemical Industries, multiple chemists discovered an entirely new way to produce the plastic. They too like von Pechmann found this waxy substance at the bottom of a tube. Two years later, they were able find a practical method to produce this accidental substance and make plastic products out of it. Still to this day, it is the most common plastic in our everyday life. Look around and I bet you can spot something that contains polythene.


4. Radiation


The fourth discovery would have to go to radiation. The study of radiation took many years. In 1896, Henri Becquerel began studying the properties of x-rays by using naturally fluorescent minerals. He then did an experiment using potassium uranyl sulfate on photographic plates in which he wrapped the plates in black paper and exposed them to sunlight. He originally thought that the uranium would absorb the sun rays in which they would be emitted as x-rays. However, his experiment failed due to overcast skies in Paris. Becquerel still developed the plates and in doing so, he discovered that the mineral uranium was indeed emitting radiation without the help of the sun. Radioactivity had been discovered. 

 5. LCD Screen

LCD Screen.jpg

The final discovery that has played a role in all of our lives in the 21st century is the LCD screen. This dated back to the 1960s in Britain. The British Military wanted new flat screens in vehicles rather than the old bulky and rather expensive cathode ray tubes. This brought up the discussion of Liquid Crystal Displays, or LCDs. The only posing obstacle was the fact that these LCDs only worked under extremely hot temperatures. In 1970, scientist George Gray worked on LCDs to try and find a more practical way they could be used. He ended up inventing a molecule, 5CB, which in turn lead to the production of all LCD products in the late 70s and early 80s. Spin-offs of the original 5CB molecule made things like flat screen tvs possible. 

Chemistry Discoveries Past and Present

Overall, the scientific discoveries presented in this article are some of the greatest in the last two centuries. They have made an extreme impact on our lives whether we'd like to admit it or not. It is no doubt that they have changed our lives. These 5 discoveries have not only impacted generations before us in a positive way but will also impact many generations to come. As time goes on, we'll make new chemistry discoveries as well.