Chemist is the abbreviation for alchemist. An alchemist works to convert other substances into gold. Centuries later, this project remains open. Modern chemistry as we know it was invented by Antoine Lavoisier with his law of mass conservation. Mass is different from weight and potentially more polite. Going up on an elevator, your weight suggests you go on a diet. Your mass will not. Once the law of mass was established, chemists went on to make the periodic table. The first Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded in 1901. Alfred Nobel was the chemist who invented nitroglycerin or dynamite and the Nobel is his consolation prize to all of us. Since 1901, chemists have advanced their understanding of atomic structure while popular culture still demands the Bohr model. The Bohr model is obsolete. Electrons do not circle the nucleus like planets; they settle around it in probability clouds. A better description of electrons would be potential precipitation. At one point in time, the mark of a good chemist could be seen by a show of hands. Chemists used their fingers to check the doneness of a reaction and the fewer fingers you had the better. Under current health regulations, the chemist follows protocols in much the same way a cook follows recipes. Chemistry however is cooking you cannot eat. Given the latter, a chemist is simply a bad cook.
Weike Wang currently lives in Boston, MA, She is a student at the Harvard School of Public Health.