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Thread: The Technology & Experiments used to Advance Chemistry

  1. #1 The Technology & Experiments used to Advance Chemistry 
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    Does anyone here know of any good books on this subject?

    I want to start with the most ancient technologies/experiments. The most primitive technology/experiment I've been able to identify so far has been the open bon-fire which was used to make charcoal(carbon) and bake clay into 'earthenware' products

    The next step up from that was the kiln, which was also used to manufacture charcoal, larger quantities I presume. Also, the higher temperatures produced by the kiln allowed man to bake clay material into water proof pottery - known as 'stoneware'. Improved version of the Kiln yielded to the discovery and manufacturing of porcelain as well as glass.

    Still, even more advanced versions of the kiln gave man access to metals like copper, silver, gold and iron.

    In regards to the particular era I just covered, am I missing any technologies/experiments here?

    More importantly, what technologies/experiments followed?

    The only thing I can think of is the experiments of Lavoisier - he used a sealed Glass jar. Inside the jar was a metal which he allowed to rust. This increased the weight of the piece of metal inside the jar, but the total weight of the sealed jar was unchanged. Thus he concluded that the metal gained mass by taking something invisible in the air.

    What I'm primarily interested in here is learning about the technology/experiments used to isolate substances like nitrogen and hydrogen gas. I was hoping one of you could lead me in the right direction.


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  3. #2  
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    Gulp!

    What a huge leap -- from the primitive methods of our cavemen forebears to the beginnings of modern chemistry! You could fill an entire library with relevant books.

    Ancient "chemists" developed metallurgy, leather tanning, beer and wine making, dyes, pottery glazes, glass, papermaking, and so much more. The came the Romans who were fairly competent chemists.

    Decide where you want to start. How about bronze? The Bronze Age. Gotta start some place. Check the internet for relevant articles on early bronze. When you finish we'll suggest another industry.


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  4. #3  
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    How about we start with metallurgy in general.

    For instance, when it comes to understanding how smelting works, I don't understand how the ancients (or even modern man) separated the molten metal from the slag.

    My guess is that the substances and elements considered slag turned into liquid well before the metal did. Hence, by the time the copper, gold, or iron turned molten, the other 'impurities' had already been drained out.

    Am I close?
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by remit
    How about we start with metallurgy in general.

    For instance, when it comes to understanding how smelting works, I don't understand how the ancients (or even modern man) separated the molten metal from the slag.

    My guess is that the substances and elements considered slag turned into liquid well before the metal did. Hence, by the time the copper, gold, or iron turned molten, the other 'impurities' had already been drained out.

    Am I close?
    I was going to recommend this book in any case at some stage. See if you can get your hands on Professor J E Grodon's "The New Science of Strong Materials" (sub-titled: Or why you don't fall through the floor). First printed in 1968, but revised in 1976, if I remember rightly. Mine is the 1991 reprint.

    Anyway, it's a classic of popular science - superbly written, wonderfully informative, never patronising, and never afraid to use equations and numbers wherever necessary. As a bonus, in response to your question, he devotes an entire chapter to metallurgy, the creation of slag, the chemical changes in iron being smelted, processes for the removal of slag, and industrial smelting techniques - 'puddling' wrought iron, for instance and so on.

    He also wrote a sequel: "Structures", which is just as good - everything you need to know about arches, dresses cut 'on the bias' and calculations of beam and structure strength!
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  6. #5  
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    "The New Science of Strong Materials" J.E. Gordon

    An excellent choice!
    It is currently available from Amazon.com for $14.96 USD.
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  7. #6  
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    I'm on my way to the library to pick it up now.

    Thanks for the lead.
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