What is Chemistry?
Chemistry is the study of matter and of the process by which one form of matter is transformed into another. It is often called the Central Science as a study of chemistry is essential for almost every science-based study. Chemists enjoy discovering chemical compounds that exist naturally and in the synthesis of new, novel chemical compounds that have never before existed on this planet. They do so as a creative exercise, and as a means of making life better. For example, chemists extract and analyse substances from plants that may have medicinal benefits, while other chemists devise ways of synthesizing these substances in the laboratory so that the drug is inexpensive enough for people to afford. New materials that will change our lives in the 21st century, such as new polymers and high temperature superconductors are developed by research teams that include chemists.
The Branches of Chemistry
Chemistry is such a vast field of knowledge that we subdivide it into more manageable units. The four most common branches of chemistry are:
This is by far the largest branch of chemistry. It involves the study of the compounds of carbon and hydrogen together with any other elements to which they may be linked.
The study of all of the other known elements and the compounds that they form make up the field of inorganic chemistry.
A significant part of chemistry involves the quantitative study of the properties of chemical compounds and of the ways in which chemical reactions take place - this is the field of physical chemistry.
One of the most rapidly growing areas of chemistry is analytical chemistry. This branch involves the analysis of materials to determine their chemical composition.
As well as these four areas, there are hybrid topics such as physical organic chemistry - the quantitative study of organic compounds and how they react. Each specialty has its own sub-divisions, for example, natural products chemistry involves the study of the organic compounds found in plants and other organisms, with particular interest in their use in medicine. These sub-divisions overlap, thus natural products chemistry is also a part of medicinal chemistry.
Chemistry is not an isolated subject. It overlaps with the other sciences in such linking fields as biochemistry, geochemistry, chemical physics, chemical engineering, and even biogeochemistry.