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What is Organic Chemistry?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 21, 2024
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Organic chemistry is a branch of chemistry that involves the study of the structures, composition, and synthesis of carbon-containing compounds. In understanding this form of chemistry, it is important to note that all organic molecules include not only carbon, but also hydrogen. While it is true that organic compounds can contain other elements, the bond between carbon and hydrogen is what makes a compound organic.

Originally, this field was defined as the study of compounds created by living organisms, but its definition has been enlarged to include artificially synthesized substances as well. Before 1828, all organic compounds were obtained from living organisms. Scientists didn’t believe it was possible to synthesize organic compounds from inorganic compounds, and many who attempted to do so, failed. In 1828, however, urea was made from inorganic substances, paving the way for a new definition of organic chemistry.

There are more than 6 million known organic compounds, and in addition to being plentiful, they are also unique. This is because carbon atoms have the ability to form strong bonds with many different elements. Carbon atoms are also able to bond covalently to other carbon atoms, while simultaneously forming strong bonds with other nonmetal atoms. When carbon atoms bond together, they can form chains consisting of thousands of atoms, as well as rings, spheres, and tubes.

Many individuals consider organic chemistry to be very complicated and unrelated to daily life. Though the study of this discipline may be complex, it is very important to everyday life. In fact, organic compounds are a part of everything, from the foods people eat to the products they use. They are important in the creation of clothing, plastics, fibers, medications, insecticides, petroleum-derived chemicals, and a long list of products used to support life and to make it more convenient.

This field of study is important not only to those who are interested in science-related careers, but to every individual alive today and to those who will be born in the future. It is key in developing new products and improving those on which people have become dependent. Each year, organic chemists make discoveries that are helpful in improving medicines, aiding agricultural growth, understanding the human body, and performing countless tasks important to the average person.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a All The Science writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon344920 — On Aug 14, 2013

What are the possible results of reaction between ortho bromoclorobenzene and bromine?

By browncoat — On Oct 29, 2012

@anon91142 - Organic chemistry is the study of compounds that come from life (or that are synthesized but originally come from life) while inorganic chemistry is the study of everything else.

There are quite a few questions being asked here that look like homework questions. This one in particular could easily be answered by reading the article and perhaps looking for another article on inorganic chemistry.

People should be able to ask questions, of course, but if you've been given an assignment you're better off looking for the answer on the rest of the site or in your textbook. There's no guarantee that someone will stop by and answer your question in time and you really should be learning how to research properly anyway.

By KoiwiGal — On Oct 28, 2012

@pastanaga - You only have to read the article to see that it will take us many more generations to even understand a fraction of the interactions that can occur in organic chemistry. Six million different organic compounds are known. That's an impossible number of possible reactions.

I think people look around at all the bad news they get on TV where it always seems like disease rates are increasing and so forth and think that the world is getting worse. In fact, partly because we are slowly mastering biology and chemistry, the world is a much better place to live in today than it has ever been.

By pastanaga — On Oct 27, 2012

@anon150407 - We know the basic processes of organic chemistry but we don't know everything, or there wouldn't be work for scientists.

And even if we completely understood how cancer and heart disease forms, that doesn't mean we'd know how to stop it forming, or cure it once it does form.

For one thing, cancer and heart disease are catchall terms for very diverse diseases. There will never be a single "cure for cancer" because cancer isn't a single disease. For another thing, cancer in particular is a disease that manipulates our own cells. That's why chemo and radio-therapies are so damaging and difficult, because they kill our healthy cells as well as the cancer. So finding a true 'cure' is always going to be difficult.

By anon150407 — On Feb 07, 2011

If organic chemistry is so important for us that all the life activities are not possible without its knowledge. Then why not there any methods of curing heart problems and cancer like diseases?

By anon136339 — On Dec 22, 2010

organic chemistry is that branch of science which deals with the study of compounds containing carbon but CO, CO2 are not considered as organic compounds. while other than those are inorganic compounds.

By anon125661 — On Nov 10, 2010

how will you relate the organic chemistry to the field of pharmacy?

what is the relation of organic chemistry to the different drugs available in the market?

can you please answer these questions?

By anon91142 — On Jun 20, 2010

what is the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry?

By anon28957 — On Mar 25, 2009

What is the oxidation state of pt?

By anon14348 — On Jun 14, 2008

...what are some applications of chemistry in today's society???

By DISstudent — On Dec 11, 2007

i will be doing a seminar entitled 'application of organic chemistry in medicine' as we all know, the topic is quite common so i would appreciate your help to give me your opinion what topic related to ti should be presented for the seminar. TQ.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a All The Science writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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