The hardest material we know, diamond, is formed by only one element: carbon.
Twohundred years ago, when chemistry had been founded as a new science by Antoine Lavoisier ‘the father of chemistry’ we knew only a few dozen chemical elements.
Now we know more then hundred elements – metals mostly – that find all kinds of applications in our society.
Since some eighty years we have a much better understanding of atoms. We know their structure and their behaviour under many circumstances. What we learned from that is that the properties of a few elements are so special, that these elements are crucial for the possibility that life forms can exist at all.
Without the elements carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen life would be impossible. Other elements cannot form life – as we can learn from quantum physics. Some other elements are also essential for life, e.g. phosphorus (in DNA). Many life forms will need other elements, like iron or copper, magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium and chlorine. In addition to that, water molecules are essential for life as well.