Boyle's Law, the discovery of carbon dioxide, and the fundamental nature of gases . . . just some of the ways Irish scientists have contributed to the development of modern chemistry.

Indeed, the 'father of modern chemistry' was from Ireland: Robert Boyle was born in Lismore Castle, Co Waterford, albeit of Planter stock.

Modern chemistry begins with Boyle in the late 1600s, emerging from alchemy as its practitioners became more analytical, more accurate and more 'scientific'. Historically, chemistry was also closely allied to medicine - think of herbalists and apothecaries, the forerunners of today's pharmacists.

Throughout history, chemistry has always been close to industry, from distilling and purifying chemicals, to developing new and improved industrial techniques. We see this in Ireland, especially in the 19th century, when chemists were recruited to improve: the reactions used in the brewing and distilling industries; the dyes and bleaches of the linen industry; the chemical processes of the kelp (seaweed) and sugar beet industries; and even to produce new chemical products by distilling peat - yielding everything from coal tars to creosote and asphalt.

The industrial link is even stronger now. The chemical and pharmaceutical sectors are the biggest in the Irish economy, and chemistry is at their core. Today, chemists in Ireland work on some of the major brand name drugs, chemicals and even adhesives that are sold around the world.

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