Chemistry as a separate subject was first taught in Greece in 1837, immediately after the founding of the University of Athens. Chemistry was taught in parallel with Physics and Mathematics in the framework of the courses taught in the School of Philosophy. The first Associate Professor of Chemistry was the Bavarian pharmacist Xavier Landerer, who also wrote the first Chemistry textbook. Landerer organized the first basic Laboratory of Chemistry in the basement of the Central Building of the University, where he performed fascinating chemistry experiments for the students. These experiments were also attended by other interested citizens of Athens.
Chemistry as a separate discipline in Greece is considered to be founded by Anastasios Christomanos, who was nominated Associate Professor in 1863. He taught General Chemistry in the University of Athens for about 40 years (1866-1905). Professor Christomanos organized and then supervised the construction of the first building of the Chemistry Laboratories in the center of Athens (Solonos street), known nowadays as “Palaio Chimeio” or “Old Chemistry Building”. This building housed also the laboratories of Physics, Pharmacy and Botany. Professor Christomanos as Rector of the University of Athens (1896) proposed and achieved the foundation of the School of Sciences and the transfer of the Physics and Mathematics departments from the School of Philosophy to the School of Sciences.
Konstantinos Zengelis was the successor of Professor Christomanos. Zengelis was appointed Professor and chair of Physical Chemistry for a short period. The Physical Chemistry chair was separated that of Inorganic Chemistry [First professor (1912-1938): K. Zengelis] and that of Organic Chemistry [First professor (1912-1939): Georgios Mattheopoulos]. Zengelis was succeeded by professor Tryfon Karantasis (1886-1966). Analytical chemistry was taught in the framework of Inorganic Chemistry by the Associate Professor Dimitrios Dalmas (1886-1967). Mattheopoulos was succeeded by Leonidas Zervas (1939-1968), a worldwide recognized scientist in the field of peptide synthesis (Bergmann–Zervas synthesis). Under the guidance of Professor Zervas, the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry received international distinctions in the field of Peptide Synthesis.
The Department of Chemistry was founded in 1918 (until then Chemistry courses were taught in the framework of other Department curricula) and accepted the first students to graduate as Chemists. The Department initially only included the Inorganic and Organic Chemistry Chairs, but the Physical Chemistry Chair was founded again immediately [first Professor: Dimitrios Tsakalotos (1883-1919)]. In 1922, two other chairs were created: the History of Science Chair with Professor Michael Stephanidis (1868-1957) (this Chair was suspended in 1936) and the Chair of Food Chemistry [first Professor: Spyros Galanos (1896-1960)]. Later, the Industrial Chemistry [first Professor: Ioannis Zaganiaris (1900-1975)] and Analytical Chemistry Chairs [first Professor: Themistocles Hadjiioannou (1927-2012)] were founded in 1949 and 1966 respectively.
In 1982, the Law 1268 changed the administrative structure of the Greek Universities, and since then, the Departments are divided into “Divisions” instead of the previous division into “Chairs”. The Department of Chemistry is now composed of three Divisions:
Division I (Laboratories of Analytical Chemistry and Physical Chemistry)
Division II (Laboratories of Organic Chemistry, Food Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry and Biochemistry)
Division III (Laboratories of Inorganic Chemistry and Environmental Chemistry).
In 1990, the Laboratories of the Department of Chemistry moved from the now historical Chemistry building in the Center of Athens to the new facilities in the buildings of the School of Sciences in the University Campus, in the East-Southeast area of Athens, between the Municipalities of Zografou and Kesariani.
Every year, the Department of Chemistry accepts approximately 120 new students after general exams, as well as 30-40 graduate students (holding a degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biology, Geology, Agriculture, etc.) for postgraduate studies and research work leading to M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees.