Greatest advances in human history have often rested on and prompted progress in chemistry. The exploitation of fire, the development of pigments, and the discovery that metals could be smelted and worked laid the foundations of civilisation. The search for better tools and weapons drove metallurgy, and the need for medicines and perfumes lay behind the first laboratories. This book traces a story of exploration and discovery, from the earliest applications of chemistry by our ancient forebears. For more than 1000 years alchemists pursued the transformation of matter, until the advent of modern chemistry in the 17th century set us on the path to the complex science of today.