UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
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Repository: UIHistories Project: Board of Trustees Minutes - 1878 [PAGE 208]

Caption: Board of Trustees Minutes - 1878
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208 The second division extends from the beginning of the 4th to the middle of the 17th century. During this time chemical facts and investigations were regarded as a whole; but they served purposes foreign to the true object of chemistry. The third division begins with the middle of the seventeenth century, the time in which the true object of chemistry was recognized, and extends to the present time. These three principal divisions of the history of chemistry may be further divided into periods, which would greatly facilitate the review of the various conditions of the science. There was no essential change at any time in the chemical knowledge of the ancients, and our first division may constitute a single period. I t has already been stated that during the time of the middle history, chemistry served purposes foreign to its true object, and as these purposes were diiferent, we have the means for a further subdivision. From the beginning of the fourth century to the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the sole object of chemistry was to prepare gold artificially. This period is termed the period of alchemy. From the close of this period to the middle of the seventeenth century, the object of chemistry was to heal diseases, and this gives us the period of medical chemistry or latro-chemistry. Since the middle of the seventeenth century there has been no change in the views of the true object of chemistry; but during this time the conditions of the science underwent a remarkable change, and for this reason the modern history of chemistry is divided into the period of the phlogistic theory, which extends to the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and into the period of quantitative investigations, extending from that time up to the present day. In regard to the first period, which comprises the chemical knowledge of the ancients, very little can be said in this hurried review of the subject. History bears record that certain chemical facts were known; but during this whole period these facts consisted of isolated observations, and a theoretical explanation of the nature of the bodies known is nowhere to be found. The Egyptians, in very remote times, are known to have been expert in the arts. They must have carried the production and working of the metals to a comparatively high degree of perfection. They knew how to manufacture glass, to prepare dyes, and to preserve dead bodies from decay. Pharmaceutical preparations were also known to them. W h a t has been said of the Egyptians is also true of the Phoenicians. The Israelites were especially acquainted with metallurgical operations. Of the metals; they knew gold, silver, copper, lead, tin and iron. The Grecian philosophers, in very early times, were occupied with the study of the elementary nature of matter. Among their doctrines may be mentioned that of Aristotle, which was universally accepted, and played an important part in subsequent scientific investigations. H e considered all forms of matter composed of four elements, namely: air, fire, water and earth. Very little was done by the Greeks in the discovery of new facts by observation or experiment. Their knowledge of the metals was about the same as that of the Israelites. The chemical knowledge of the Romans dates from the time, in