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[Perspectives] How chemists came to matter

Chemistry may have its roots in medieval alchemy, but ever since it became a science in the 18th century, it has been closely associated with medicine. Today, the most obvious link is the chemical synthesis of pharmaceuticals. Earlier, however, the relationship was more intimate. The Dutchman Hermann Boerhaave, the first person to isolate the chemical urea from urine, in 1727, was a practising physician, as were the two Scottish chemists, William Cullen and Joseph Black and, in the early 19th century, the English polymath Thomas Young.