From such a wealth of materials and events, any chronology inevitably is a selection from the author/editor’s interests and preferences. The chronology below has attempted to be non-technical and thus more available to historians and non-chemists.

1755 Joseph Black (Great Britain), Experiments upon Magnesia, Quicklime and other Alkaline Substances, discovers “fixed air” (carbonic-acid gas, carbon dioxide).

1760-66 Henry Cavendish (Great Britain), at Cambridge, studies “inflammable air” (hydrogen), and shows water to be a union of two gases. [see 1805-06]

1767 Joseph Priestly (Great Britain) experiments at Leeds with mineral acids and gases of air. Discovers “inert air” (nitrogen) 1772 [independently of Daniel Rutherford], and “fire air” (oxygen) 1775 [independently of Scheele].

1774 Karl Wilhelm Scheele (Sweden) discovers chlorine; later glycerine, tungsten and < hydrogen sulphide gas 1781. Early respiratory death from chlorine-poisoning.

1778-88 ANTOINE LAURENT LAVOISIER (France) proves air to be a mixture of gases; introduces names ‘oxygen’ and ‘nitrogen’; disproves Stahl’s animistic Phlogiston Theory of 1694; elevates chemistry to a modern experimental empirical-deductive and rational science. Methode de Nomenclature chymique (with Claude Bertholet), uses present-day chemical symbols [ C, H, N, O etc.].

1785 Bertholet (France) shows ammonia to be a compound of hydrogen and nitrogen.

1786 Martin Klaproth (Germany) discovers uranium; also zirconium, strontium, titanium.

1789 Lavoisier, Traite elementaire de Chimie, founds modern approach to Chemistry. Produces Table of Thirty-One Chemical Elements, 1790. [See 1869]. Executed in French Revolution.

1790 Thomas Wedgwood (Great Britain) studies photo-chemistry of silver nitrate. [1827]

1791 Nicholas Leblanc (France) produces his soda-carbonate industrial process. [1863]

1792 Philadelphia Chemical Society founded. [1846]
— F. Accum (Germany) in England, pioneers use of coal-gas for street-lamps. [1820]

1796 Pure ethyl alcohol prepared, by Lowitz.

1797 Nicholas de Saussure (France), Recherches chimiques sur la vegetation.
— William Nicholson (Great Britain), London waterworks chemist, founds Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts.
— Vauquelin (France) discovers chromium; later, isolates first amino-acid, asparagine, from the vegetable.

1800 Nicholson constructs first voltaic-pile in England; discovers electrolytic dissociation of water into gases.
— Humphrey Davy lectures at Royal Institution, London, ‘Researches, chemical and philosophical, concerning nitrous oxide’.

1801 Franz Achard (Germany), in Silesia, perfects Marggraf’s [1747] process for large-scale production of sugar from beet crop.

1801-1802 John Dalton (Great Britain) evolves pioneer atomic theory for chemistry. [1808]

1803 William Henry (Great Britain), ‘Henry’s Law’ of dissolving gases.
— J. J. Berzelius (Sweden) discovers cerium [rare-earth metal] [see 1839].

1804 W. H. Wollaston (Great Britain) discovers palladium and rhodium metals.

1805 R. Dutrochet (France) studies/names ‘osmosis’ [after Nollet’s discovery, 1748].
— Friedrich Serturner (Germany) apothecary, isolates/studies first alkaloid-opiate, morphine, from opium [see 1820].

1805-1806 Gay-Lussac (France) finds water to be 2 parts hydrogen to 1 part oxygen.

1806 Joseph Proust (France) establishes Proust’s Law of constant chemical proportions.
— H. Davy prepares sodium and potassium metals by electrolysis of salts; in 1808 he prepares magnesium, calcium, strontium and barium [alkaline-earth metals].

1808 Gay-Lussac (France), Law of Combining Volumes of Gases.
— Dalton, J., New System of Chemical Philosophy. [1801-02]

1811 Amedeo Avogadro (Italy), ‘Avogadro’s hypothesis’ on gases [see 1858].
— Samuel Hahnemann (Germany), ‘Precept of Pure Drugs’, a homeopathic pharmacopeia. [Pharmacopeia Londinensis, 1618, Royal College of Physicians, still available in Britain]. [1820]

1812 Humphrey Davy, Elements of Chemical Philosophy.

1813 M. Orfila (Esp.), Traite de toxicologie generale. [see 1805, 1820]
— Courtois (France) discovers iodine. [1878]

1814 J. J. Berzelius, ‘Theory of Chemical Proportions’, based on atomic weights; gives support to Dalton’s [1802] atomic theory.

1815 William Prout (Great Britain) relates atomic wts. to specific gravities, and arrives at ‘Prout’s hypothesis’ for fundamental status of simple hydrogen atom.

1817 Berzelius discovers selenium [Se] and lithium [Li]; thorium [Th] in 1828.

1818 Berzelius publishes mol. wts. of two thousand compounds; introduces many new chemical symbols.
— Stromeyer & Hermann discover cadmium [Cd].

1819 Eilhard Mitscherlich (Germany), working with crystalline phosphates and arsenates, establishes new concept of isomorphism for crystals.
— P. Dulong (France) and A. Petit establish ‘Dulong & Petit’s Law’ for specific-heats as an early approach to atomic weights.

1820 F. Accum, A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, London.
— Pelletier and Caventou (France) discover alkaloid quinine; later strychnine, brucine.
United States Pharmacopeia, 1st edition. [1811, 1846, 1852]

1822 Leopold Gmelin (Germany) discovers potassium ferricyanide, ‘Gmelin’s salt’; later introduces terms ester and ketone into organic chemistry; ‘Gmelin’s test’ for bile pigments. [See 1849, 1852, 1881]

1823 Michael Faraday (Great Britain) liquefies chlorine; discovers coal-tar benzene [1825], and studies the candle-flame. [See 1834]

c.1825 Phosphorous matches invented; much attention to improvements.

1827 Sulphur friction-matches invented by John Walker.

1826 Otto Unverdorben (Germany) discovers aniline oil, from distillation of indigo plant. Antoine Balard (France) discovers bromine [Br].

1827 Joseph Niepce (France) produces photographic image on metal plate covered with silver salts [1790, 1838].
— Robert Brown (Great Britain) observes “Brownian movement” of colloidal particles agitated by [implied] molecular vibrations of liquids.
— Friedrich Wohler (Germany) obtains aluminium [Al] from clays; Beryllium [1828].

1828 Wohler synthesises a first organic compound, urea, [ CO(NH2)2] from the inorganic salt, ammonium cyanate, presaging the conceptual unification of the organic and inorganic domains, and a blow to vitalism [see 1845, 1852, 1865]

1829 J. W. Dobereiner (Germany) notes similarities in certain groups of elements, e.g.chlorine, bromine and iodine - ‘Dobereiner’s triads’ - [see 1864, 1869].
— William Odling (Great Britain) at Oxford, classifies the silicates.

c.1830 Chile begins exports of nitrate fertilizers — Chile saltpetre — which by 1870 will eclipse Peruvian ‘guano’ from accumulated seabird droppings [rich in oxalates, nitrogenous urates, phosphates]. [1898]
— Reichenbach (Germany) discovers paraffin in coal-tar creosote-fraction.
— P. J. Kipp (Ned.) begins chemical glassware production at Delft: ‘Kipp’s apparatus’ becomes standard laboratory-ware.

1831 S. Guthrie (United States) and J. von Liebig (Germany) independently discover chloroform.

1832 Reichenbach prepares medical creosote from wood-tar.

1834 Faraday publishes ‘The Laws of Electrolysis’.

Runge (Germany) discovers phenol in coal-tar; first synthetic dye soon follows - ‘acid green’,1835. [See 1856]

1836 John Daniell (Great Britain) produces his ‘wet cell’ battery, using zinc/copper sulphates in solution, with zinc rod and copper canister.
— Inflammable acetylene gas discovered by E. Davey.

1838 Louis Daguerre (France) invents his ‘Daguerrotype’ single-image copper photo-plate. [1839]

1839 Henry Fox Talbot (Great Britain) publishes details of his ‘calotype’ [paper] negative-positive process, which since c.1835 had used “chloride of silver”, ‘fixing’ with sodium thiosulphite: in Comptes Rendus, and quickly adopted by Daguerre.

Schonbein (Swiss) discovers and names ozone gas.

Charles Goodyear (United States) discovers ‘vulcanization’ - hardening of natural rubber [from Brazil-Amazon trees] with sulphur [S].

C. G. Mosander (Sweden) discovers ‘rare earth’ metal lanthanum [La, “lies hidden”] in cerium salt [1803]; erbium [Er], 1843.

1840 Justus von Liebig (Germany), carbon and nitrogen cycles; artificial fertilizers.
— Boussingault (France) experimentally supports Liebig’s cycles. ‘Liebig condenser’.

G. H. Hess (Swiss) produces ‘heat theorem’ and Hess’s Law [Phys. Chem.]

1840s Auguste Laurent (France) isolates coal-tar anthracene; nucleus theory of organic radicals. [1849, 1852]

1841 Fritsch (Germany) treats indigo plant with alkali to obtain aniline. [1826, 1856]

1845 Kolbe (Germany) synthesises acetic acid [vinegar], against vitalism. [1828]

1846 Thomas Graham (Great Britain) widely held to have founded Physical Chem., with his

work on diffusion in gases and liquids - ‘Graham’s Law’. [1876]
— Sobrero (Italy) prepares explosive, nitro-glycerine. [1866. 1875]

Morton (United States) pioneers use of ether [diethyl ether] as dental anaesthetic. Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (William Proctor Jr., Professor) [1792, 1820]

1847 Hermann Koppe (Germany), Geschichte der Chemie.

1848 J. Mitchell (Great Britain), A Treatise on the Falsification of Foods, and the Chemical Means Employed to Detect Them. Paris: Bailliere et fils. [available 2016, as print-on-demand, various editions,]. [1820]

1849 Edward Frankland (Great Britain), doctoral dissertation, Marburg, Ueber die Isolirung des Aethyls: Isolation of diethyl radicals, then controversial; developed into organometallic compounds, e.g. diethylzinc. [1850, Bunsen/cacodyl] [1866] [See ferrocene, Pauson & Kealy,1951].

Gmelin, L., Textbook of Inorganic Chemistry. Heidelberg. [1822, 1881]

1850 Robert von Bunsen (Germany) introduces his modified bench ‘burner’; involved with ‘cacodyl’[from Gk. kakodes = stinking] compounds [arsines, dimethylarsine, cacodylic acid] [1849, 1859-60]

1852 American Pharmaceutical Association founded in Philadelphia. [1820, 1846]

1852-60 E. Frankland, early valency theory and chemical bonds.

1853-56 C. F. Gerhardt, (France), Traite de chimie organique, 4 vols., Paris [‘New Theory of Organic Compounds’]. Influenced August Kekule [1859].

1854 Heinrich Geissler (Germany), scientific glass-making. [see Kipp, 1830].

1855 A. Parkes (Great Britain), first plastic solid, from evaporation of photographic collodion.

1856 William H. Perkin (Great Britain) synthesises aniline mauve with A. W. von Hofmann; inaugurates coal-tar aniline-dyestuffs industry. [See 1875, von Baeyer]

1858 S. Cannizzaro (Italy) rethinks Avogadro’s 1811 ‘Hypothesis’ on atomic and molecular weights; presents at the Karlsruhe Congress, 1860. He had earlier proven the iconic ‘Cannizarro reaction’[1853], whereby an aromatic aldehyde can be decomposed into its constituent aromatic acid and aromatic alcohol.

1859 A. Kekule (Germany) works on chain-theory of organic compounds. [1865]

William Crookes (Great Britain) founds Chemical News [to 1906]; discovers thallium [Tl] in 1861.

1859-60 Bunsen and Kirchoff at Heidelberg improve prism-spectrometer/spectrum analysis: discover caesium [Cs] and rubidium [Rb]. [1868]

1860 Ludwig Mond moves from Germany to England; builds large alkali plant; Mond Nickel Co., 1900.

1863 Ernest Solvay (Belgium) invents Solvay Process for manufacture of sodium carbonate for glass and soap industries. [1791]

1864 John Newlands (Great Britain) notes a ‘Rule of octaves’ for similarities at each 8th element in periodic ‘Table’ order of ascending atomic weights [1829, 1869].
— J. von Baeyer (Germany) synthesizes barbituric acid [barbiturates]. [1875]

1865 M. Berthelot (France) performs many organic syntheses which demonstrate essential unity of organic-inorganic domains. [1828, 1852]
— Kekule (Germany) famously dreams his ring-structure for benzene and related aromatic compounds [aided by organic theories of Dumas, Gerhardt].

1866 Frankland, E., Lecture notes for chemical students: embracing mineral and organic chemistry. London: Van Voorst. [1868]
— Alfred Nobel (Sweden) invents safer explosives: dynamite, and gelignite, 1875; ballistite, 1889. [See 1901]

1867 von Hofmann (Germany) prepares formaldehyde, HCHO. [1856, coal-tar aniline].

1868 German Chemical Society founded by von Hofmann et al.
— Helium [He] discovered by spectroscope [1859-60] in atmosphere of the Sun, by Lockyer and Frankland [see 1887, 1894].
—  Hyatt (United States) uses camphor/plasticizer for cellulose nitrate: ‘celluloid’/polymer.

1869 Dmitri Mendeleyev (Russia) perfects his Periodic Table of Elements, based on their atomic masses. Lothar Meyer (Germany) independently produces one similar. [In 1913-14 Henry Moseley, at Manchester University under Rutherford, would revise these Tables, by use of the more accurate atomic numbers].

Mege-Mouries (France) invents margarine from hydrogenated fats/oils. [1872]

Louis Pasteur (France) Prof. Chemistry, Paris-Sorbonne; moves to medical biology.

1872 F. Boudet (France) discovers emulsification to improve margarines. [1869, 1884]

1874 J. van’t Hoff (Ned.) deduces asymmetry of carbon-bonds. [1901]

1875 Boisbaudran (France) discovers gallium [Ga], samarium [Sm] and dysprosium [Dy].
—  (Johann) Adolf von Baeyer (Germany), Prof. Organic Chem., Munich, to 1915. His major synthesis of indigo dye, 1878-80, from isatin etc., with structural studies; [Nobel Chem. 1905]. See 1856 [aniline-dyes from natural indigo].
—  R.H. Chittenden (United States) isolates glycogen. [1898]

1876 Rudolf Fittig (Germany) devises ‘Fittig reaction’ of organic compounds with sodium.
—  J. W. Gibbs (United States), ‘On the equilibrium of heterogeneous systems’ [Phys. Chem.]

W. Kuhne discovers digestive trypsin; introduces term enzume. [See 1897]

1877 Ernst Hoppe-Selyer (Germany) founds Zeitschrift fur physiologische Chemie, first biochemistry journal. [1890s, 1898]

1878 yellow iodoform crystals, from ethyl alcohol and iodine, used as antiseptic.

1879 saccharin [benzoic sulfimide] synthesised by Fahlberg & Remser at Johns Hopkins University.

1880s Eduard and Hans Buchner (Germany) at Munich show alcoholic fermentation to be due to non-vitalist chemical processes; ‘Buchner flask’. [1897]

1881 F. K. Beilstein, (Russia) founds Handbuch der organischen Chemie, ‘Handbook of Organic Chemistry’, encyclopaedic catalogue of 1,500 organic compounds in 2 vols.; 3rd edn, 1893-1900, 4 vols with further 4 vols of supplements, edited by German Chemical Society [later format, ‘Beilstein database’, Elsevier, Frankfurt: millions of electronic entries] [Cf. ‘Gmelin database’, Elsevier: organometals].

1884 Paul Sabatier (France) Prof. Chem. at Toulouse to 1905; catalysts for hydrogenation in synthetic margarine and methanol industries. [Nobel Chem. 1912]

1885 Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler (Germany) employ petroleum-fraction [gasoline] in single-cylinder motor-engine.

1886 Henri Moisson (France) isolates fluorine [F]; develops electric furnace and makes carborundum [silicon carbide, SiC]; synthetic diamonds. [Nobel 1906 ] [1891].
— Lever Bros. (Great Britain) produce soaps from vegetable oils - ‘Sunlight soap’.
— Aminopyrine and acetanilide [precursors of aspirin] synthesised. [1897-99].
— C. M. Hall (United States) and Heroult (France) each produce aluminium by electrolysis.

1887 J. Lockyer, The Chemistry of the Sun, London: Macmillan & Co. [see 1868] [First editions, and/or 2015 print-on-demand, available at ]
— H. W. Goodwin invents new film from celluloid [1868]; Eastman’s celluloid roll-film, 1889.
— Analgesic-febrifugal drug phenacetin prepared [1886, 1897-99].
— Wilhelm Ostwald (Germany), Leipzig; nitric acid process; catalysts for petrochemical industry. [Nobel 1909]

1889 F. Abel and J. Dewar (Great Britain) invent cordite explosive. [1866]

1890s Emil Fischer (Germany) syntheses and structural studies of sugars; foundation biochemistry. [Nobel Chem. 1902] [1877, 1900].

1891 Herman Frasch (United States) develops ‘Frasch process’ for steam-extraction of sulphur.
— E. G. Acheson (United States) develops uses of carborundum; and of colloidal graphit lubricants, 1896.

1894 Lord Rayleigh & William Ramsay (Great Britain) isolate inert/‘noble’ gases: argon [Ar], with a residual atmospheric ‘fraction’; Helium [He], 1896; xenon [Xe], krypton [Kr] and neon [Ne], 1898, Ramsay & Travers. [see Dorn, 1900]. [Nobel 1904]

1896 S. Arrhenius (Sweden) calculates atmospheric carbon dioxide; studies in theory of electrolytic dissociation. [Nobel 1903]

1897 Rudolf Diesel (France) demonstrates new compression-injection engine using heavy petroleum-fraction. [Lost overboard in curious accident, 1913].

J. J. Thomson (Great Britain) discovers the electron in cathode-rays [Nobel 1906].
— E. Buchner (Germany) discovers enzyme ‘zymase’ [1880s] [Nobel Chem. 1907].
— Henry Dow (United States) forms Dow Chemical Co.

1897-99 Bayer Co.-GmbH (Germany) perfects analgesic drug aspirin [acetylsalicylic acid],<[see 1886, 1887]

1898 Chittenden [see 1875] at Yale University, creates new academic dept. of biochemistry [then ‘physiological chemistry’ to c.1922] [1877]

1898 Pierre Curie (France) and Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Poland) discover radium [Ra] and polonium [Po] [Nobel Physics, 1903, Nobel Chem. 1911]
— British Assoc. Meeting warns of imminent depletion of Chile saltpetre. [1830]

1900 Friedrich Dorn (Germany) discovers/fractionates final inert gas, Radon [Ra].
— Emil Fischer’s projection-formulae for sucrose and other sugars [Nobel 1902].
— F. A. V. Grignard (France) prepares organo-magnesium ‘Grignard reagents’ [Nobel Chem. 1912]

1901 First Nobel Prize for Chemistry, awarded to J. H. van’t Hoff for studies Stereochemistry. [see 1874]

Brief Bibliography

Partington, J. R., 1937, A Short History of Chemistry, London: Macmillan; 3rd edn. 1965; 1960, New York, Harper Bros.

Sherwood Taylor, F., 1957,A History of Industrial Chemistry, London: Heinemann; New York: Abelard-Schuman Ltd.

Brock, W. H., 1992, The Fontana History of Chemistry, London: Fontana Press.

Scerri, E. R., 2006, The Periodic Table: Its Story and Significance, Oxford: O. U. P.

Journal of Chemical Education, passim.

Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, passim. /chemistry .

Last modified 22 September 2020