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What is organic chemistry?

Organic chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with organic molecules . An organic molecule is one which contains carbon , and these molecules can range in size from simple molecules to complex structures containing thousands of atoms! Although carbon is present in all organic compounds, other elements such as hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and phosphorus (P) are also common in these molecules.

Until the early nineteenth century, chemists had managed to make many simple compounds in the laboratory, but were still unable to produce the complex molecules that they found in living organisms. It was around this time that a Swedish chemist called Jons Jakob Berzelius suggested that compounds found only in living organisms (the organic compounds) should be grouped separately from those found in the non-living world (the inorganic compounds). He also suggested that the laws that governed how organic compounds formed, were different from those for inorganic compounds. From this, the idea developed that there was a 'vital force' in organic compounds. In other words, scientists believed that organic compounds would not follow the normal physical and chemical laws that applied to other inorganic compounds because the very 'force of life' made them different.

This idea of a mystical 'vital force' in organic compounds was weakened when scientists began to manufacture organic compounds in the laboratory from non-living materials. One of the first to do this was Friedrich Wohler in 1828, who successfully prepared urea, an organic compound in the urine of animals which, until that point, had only been found in animals. A few years later a student of Wohler's, Hermann Kolbe , made the organic compound acetic acid from inorganic compounds. By this stage it was acknowledged that organic compounds are governed by exactly the same laws that apply to inorganic compounds. The properties of organic compounds are not due to a 'vital force' but to the unique properties of the carbon atom itself.

Organic compounds are very important in daily life. They make up a big part of our own bodies, they are in the food we eat and in the clothes we wear. Organic compounds are also used to make products such as medicines, plastics, washing powders, dyes, along with a list of other items.

Sources of carbon

The main source of the carbon in organic compounds is carbon dioxide in the air. Plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds through the process of photosynthesis . Plants are therefore able to make their own organic compounds through photosynthesis, while animals feed on plants or plant products so that they gain the organic compounds that they need to survive.

Another important source of carbon is fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. This is because fossil fuels are themselves formed from the decaying remains of dead organisms (refer to Grade 11 for more information on fossil fuels).

Unique properties of carbon

Carbon has a number of unique properties which influence how it behaves and how it bonds with other atoms:

Questions & Answers

what makes an atom to take part in a chemical reaction
Mwila Reply
what is an element
what are molecules
Uyanda Reply
what are molecules
Itumeleng Reply
A group of two atoms tha the form smallest identifiable unit into which a pure substance.
what is matter
Mercy Reply
it's a topic in physics
Anything that occupies space and has mass
what is the catalyst used in esterification reaction
ketina Reply
I think is sulfuric acid
what is equilibrium
Dabo Reply
It is a condition of a system when neither its state of motion nor its internal energy state tends to change with time. ... For a single particle, equilibrium arises if the vector sum of all forces acting upon the particle is zero.
it is a dynamic change when the forward reaction is equals to the reverse reaction rate
what does organic mean
ntuthuko Reply
it means "from living thing"
What is a successful collision?
Refiloe Reply
It's a collision that results to a reaction
what is the factor and reaction rate of 20%HCL and 5%HCL
Kleng Reply
concentration and 0.05M/s
how you reaching with apartment depends on what each of you have
Edelita Reply
how with 4looseyellowprotons in your left hand stars are mostly hydrogen so this is your fuel you will also need one six so did die
besides the concentration what are the two conditions for the hydrogen half cell to function under standard conditions
Malwandla Reply
forces of non-concervative
Marlet Reply
What is the following process is likely to involve carbon burning?
Sofie Reply
Which Statement is part of the cell theory?
Hananiya Reply
What is the second formal statement in the cell theory
what is meant by ohmic
nthabiseng Reply
when someone is referred to as ohmic, it basically means that it obeys ohm's law

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 12 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Aug 03, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11244/1.2
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