5 chemistry inventions that enabled the modern world

Last Modified: Sat Jan 23 2016 11:05:43 GMT+0530 (India Standard Time)
  • #1
    PENICILLIN: There’s a good chance that penicillin has saved your life. Without it, a prick from a thorn or sore throat can easily turn fatal. Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin in 1928, but it wasn't until 1939 that Howard Florey worked out how to make it in useful quantities.
  • #2
    The Haber-Bosch process: Nitrogen gas doesn’t react much, which means that plants can’t extract it from the air. Consequently a major limiting factor in agriculture has been the availability of nitrogen. German scientists Haber and Bosch worked out a way of combining hydrogen and nitrgen to make ammonia which is used as a crop fertilizer.
  • #3
    Polythene: A large number of plastics you come across are made of some form of polythene. It was initially discovered in 1898, but a practical method for producing it wasn't developed unit 1933. 80 million tonnes are made each year.
  • #4
    Contraceptive Pills: Russel Marker, an organic chemist, discovered a chemical in Mexican yams could be turned into the hormone progesterone in a single step. This mades its production affordable and led to the development of the first contraceptive pills
  • #5
    Liquid Crystal Displays: Chemists have known about LCDs for some time, but room temperature LCD displays became possible after George Cray's discovery of 5CB in 1972. 5CB derivates are still present in TV, phone and laptop screens.