SCIE108 Discoveries in Chemistry: A History

Department of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics: Science

I. Course Number and Title
SCIE108 Discoveries in Chemistry: A History
II. Number of Credits
3 credits
III. Number of Instructional Minutes
IV. Prerequisites
V. Other Pertinent Information

Non-Lab course

This course meets the General Education requirement for Scientific Literacy
This course meets the General Education requirement for Critical Thinking.

VI. Catalog Course Description
This course examines the historical development of chemistry; the personalities, stories, and experiments behind modern understanding of matter (specifically elements and compounds), and how that understanding has led to practical technologies. In addition, the course explores the nature of scientific thought related to the historic chemical research explored.
VII. Required Course Content and Direction

Discoveries in Chemistry: A History is designed to serve as a one-semester course to meet the science requirement for the non-science major. Discoveries in Chemistry: A History covers selected areas of chemistry in a qualitative manner. Discoveries in Chemistry: A History also illustrates the nature of science by exploring historically important chemical experiments, and how our understanding of the atomic-molecular world was developed from the results of those experiments. This helps the students understand how science works, equipping them to understand and develop informed opinions related to contemporary scientific issues.

As one of the Natural Sciences, chemistry has evolved out of careful observation and experimentation; as technology evolves, so does the body of chemical knowledge. This course integrates relevant technological advances to illustrate that the methods and practices that allowed chemical knowledge to grow and develop in the past continue to alter and refine our understanding of the physical world.

All of these topics are explored from a historical perspective, with examination of the experiments and observations that led to our modern understanding of them. The twofold goal of this approach is to reinforce understanding of the concepts themselves and to illustrate the nature of scientific thought and practice.

In addition, historical investigation of scientific developments illustrates how considerations in the wider world-such as social, economic, and cultural factor--affect the course of scientific investigations; how such concerns affect how scientists think, the scientific issues scientists choose to investigate, questions scientists ask, how scientists interpret experimental results and observations, and how scientists develop frameworks for organizing their understanding of the physical world. Conversely, the affects of scientific developments on the outside world, its affects on economics, history, society, culture, etc., are explored.

  1. Course Learning Goals

    Students will:

    1. demonstrate an understanding of how observations and experimental evidence shape scientific knowledge, and draw a logical conclusion;
    2. demonstrate basic understanding of the atomic-molecular nature of matter, and how atoms and molecules give rise to macroscopically-observable elements and compounds;
    3. describe how historical, economic, social, and cultural factors affect the practice of science and the development of scientific ideas, and how science in turn has affected history, economics, society, and culture [Scientific Literacy];
    4. evaluate scientific evidence in current scientific issues, and shape and express informed opinions on relevant contemporary scientific issues, and defend their opinions on the basis of evidence [Critical Thinking]; and
    5. define the role of chemistry in relevant modern technologies.
  2. Planned Sequence of Topics and/or Learning Activities

    1. Scientific Thought: Forming and Refining Ideas with Experimental and Observational Evidence
      1. Phlogiston theory develops to explain apparent loss of mass during combustion
      2. Priestly discovers oxygen through decomposition of HgO
      3. Lavoisier shows combustion products actually have more mass
      4. combustion-as-oxidation replaces phlogiston theory
      5. in the process, Lavoisier distinguishes "compounds"Ě from "simple substances"Ě

    2. Atoms: How We Know They're Real
      1. Lavoisier defines compounds and simple substances, but offers no explanation
      2. Davy discovers several oxides of nitrogen
      3. Dalton notices mathematical relationships among proportions
        1. the Law of Definite Proportions
        2. Dalton proposes atoms as an explanation
        3. also explains compounds and simple substances
      4. development of atomic theory after Dalton
        1. Gay-Lussac's Law of Combining Volumes bolsters atomic theory
        2. Avogadro explains discrepancies in theory, but is ignored for fifty years
        3. still resistance among some chemists
          1. this was because atoms were not observable
          2. atomic theory was useful, leading to fruitful research, which swayed some; but even skeptics used the theory
        4. early 1900s: Perrin observes Brownian motion, providing direct evidence of atoms
        5. today: atomic force microscopy

    3. Inside the Atom
      1. Dalton's atoms were immutable until J. J. Thomson discovered the electron
      2. Rutherford discovers the nucleus, Moseley defines atomic number
      3. Chadwick discovers neutrons
      4. Meitner, Hahn, and Strassmann discover fission
      5. Hans Bethe determines fusion powers the sun

    4. Organizing the Elements
      1. background
        1. Lavoisier's "simple substances"
        2. Dalton's atoms explain the existence of elements
        3. early attempts at organization fail
      2. development of the modern periodic table
        1. Cannizzaro's reports more accurate atomic mass values in 1861
        2. refined atomic mass values allow periodic trends to become clearer to Mendeleyev and to Meyer: both develop periodic tables
        3. Meyer and Mendeleyev both make periodic tables for use in textbooks
        4. both developed table to make learning element properties easier
      3. Mendeleyev uses periodic table to predict discovery of new elements
        1. de Boisbaudran discovers gallium
        2. Nilson discovers scandium
        3. Winkler discovers germanium
        4. these discoveries bring recognition for Mendeleyev, but also priority dispute with Meyer
      4. refinements to periodic table
        1. Ramsey discovers noble gases
          1. Mendeleyev rejects them at first
          2. Ramsey shows noble gases to be a new column on the periodic table
        2. discovery of electron explains periodicity
          1. Mendeleyev rejects electrons
          2. electrons meant the elements were not the most fundamental form of matter
        3. protons explain Te and I discrepancy

    5. Structure Makes the Substance
      1. Wöhler and von Liebig discover isomerism
      2. the development of structural concepts in chemistry
        1. Kekulé and Couper lay down basics of organic structure, explaining isomerism
        2. Pasteur discovers chirality
        3. van't Hoff uses lack of isomerism in CH2Cl2 to propose tetrahedral carbon
      3. how are atoms joined in structures?
        1. Kossel proposes ionic bonding
        2. Lewis proposes covalent bonding>/li>
          1. Lonsdale determines benzene bonds are equal in length
          2. Pauling proposes resonance on the basis of Lonsdale’s results
      4. epilogue: Hodgkin wins Nobel Prize for vitamin B12 and other structural determinations

    6. Reproducing Natural Structures
      1. Wöhler synthesizes urea
        1. the vital hypothesis
        2. Wöhler’s urea began the overturning of this hypothesis
      2. Percy Julian synthesizes physostigmine

    7. Designing New Molecules
      1. Hoffmann and Eichengr√ľn synthesize aspirin: Modifying natural structures
        1. salicylic acid exists in nature, but harsh
        2. structural modification produces aspirin
        3. Nazis erase Eichengr√ľn from aspirin story
      2. Carothers invents nylon
        1. Staudinger puts forth macromolecular theory to explain natural and synthetic polymers
          1. Carothers uses theory to invent nylon
          2. nylon is structurally similar to silk: biomimetics
          3. macromolecular theory prevailed because it produced useful (and profitable) products more so than because of the results of any single decisive experiment
      3. Elion and Hitchings first use rational design to produce chemotherapy drugs; win Nobel Prize

    Learning Activities:
    Instruction aims to enable the student to:

    1. understand the nature of scientific knowledge as being based on evidence and observation
    2. understand the nature of scientific knowledge as being testable
    3. examine scientific evidence and draw conclusions based on that evidence
    4. understand that scientific ideas are refined as new evidence emerges, and to be able to recognize moments in history when such revision occurs, and to be able to recognize contemporary changes in scientific understanding when they occur
    5. recognize simple mathematical relationships in scientific observations and be able to draw conclusions from mathematical relationships
    6. grasp the distinction between descriptive scientific laws and explanatory scientific theories
    7. know the evidence that has led us to the basic theories underlying modern chemistry
    8. understand how protons, neutrons, and electrons combine to form the different kinds of atoms that make up all the elements that make up ordinary matter
    9. grasp that periodic relationships among elements arise from mathematical relationships between the numbers of protons and electrons found in various elements
    10. understand the difference between elements and compounds
    11. understand the nature of ionic bonding and covalent bonding in a cursory manner
    12. understand how atoms join to form molecules (and extended crystals) and that the nature of these structures gives rise to the macroscopic properties of a substance
    13. understand the concept of chirality in a cursory manner
    14. understand that it is the molecular-level structure of a substance that gives rise to its properties, and not its origin (i.e., natural vs. synthetic)
    15. understand that natural substances can be duplicated by synthesizing the same molecular-level structures artificially
    16. grasp the concept of biomimetics in molecular design
    17. understand that chemists can design and prepare new materials with desired properties by understanding how molecular-level structure affects macroscopic properties
    18. understand the macromolecular nature of polymeric materials
    19. understand in a cursory manner the processes of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion
  3. Assessment Methods for Course Learning Goals

    Course learning goals are continuously assessed by: periodic written examinations and quizzes, in-class group work and discussions, and writing assignments.
  4. Reference, Resource, or Learning Materials to be used by Student:

    See course syllabus. The students use approved text, demonstration equipment, the library, science learning center, and computer programs.

Revision/Approval Date: Approved 5/2012; New Core 8/2015