Organic chemistry

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Organic chemistry is a chemistry subdiscipline involving the scientific study of the structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds and organic materials.


  • Why is an entire branch of chemistry devoted to the study of carbon-containing compounds? We study organic chemistry because just about all of the molecules that make life –possible proteins, enzymes, vitamins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids–contain carbon.
    • Paula Y. Bruice, Organic Chemistry, Sixth Edition (2011), Ch. 1 : Electronic Structure and Bonding · Acids and Bases.
  • Introductory courses in organic chemistry usually rely primarily on the valence bond description of molecular structure. Valence bond theory was the first structural theory applied to the empirical information about organic chemistry. During the second half of the nineteenth century, correct structural formulas were deduced for a wide variety of organic compounds. The concept of “valence” was recognized. That is, carbon almost always formed four bonds, nitrogen three, oxygen two, and the halogens one.
    • Francis A. Carey and Richard J. Sundberg, Advanced Organic Chemistry 5th ed. Part A: Structure and Mechanisms (2008) Ch. 1. Chemical Bonding and Molecular Structure.
  • The central message of chemistry is that the properties of a substance come from its structure. What is less obvious, but very powerful, is the corollary. Someone with training in chemistry can look at the structure of a substance and tell you a lot about its properties. Organic chemistry has always been, and continues to be, the branch of chemistry that best connects structure with properties.
    • Francis A. Carey and Robert M. Giuliano, Organic Chemistry 8th ed. (2011), "Preface".
  • No organic chemist, however brilliant, understands the detailed chemical working of the human mind or body very well.
    • Jonathan Clayden, Nick Greeves and Stuart Warren, Organic Chemistry 2nd ed. (2012), Ch. 1 : What is organic chemistry?
  • Organic Chemistry has become a vast rubbish heap of puzzling and bewildering compounds.
    • J. Norman Collie preface to A. W. Stewart, Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry (1908), xiii
  • Part of the charm of synthetic organic chemistry derives from the vastness of the intellectual landscape along several dimensions. First, there is the almost infinite variety and number of possible target structures that lurk in the darkness waiting to be made. Then, there is the vast body of organic reactions that serve to transform one substance into another, now so large in number as to be beyond credibility to a non-chemist. There is the staggering range of reagents, reaction conditions, catalysts, elements, and techniques that must be mobilized in order to tame these reactions for synthetic purposes. Finally, it seems that new information is being added to that landscape at a rate that exceeds the ability of a normal person to keep up with it. In such a troubled setting any author, or group of authors, must be regarded as heroic if through their efforts, the task of the synthetic chemist is eased.
    • E. J. Corey, Foreword of Name Reactions in Heterocyclic Chemistry (2004) by Jie Jack Li.
  • To my delight, I discovered that fascinating combination of rigor/hypothesis, hard-core theory/intuition, and commercial-level practicality/artistic elegance known as organic chemistry in a 1954 course at Yeshiva University. It was already clear that one of the challenges of Orgo (particularly for the pre-meds) would be the systemization of a huge body of factual data, allowing for retrieval of critical information at critical times (exams, etc).
    • S. Danishefsky, Foreword to A. Hassner and I. Namboothiri, Organic Syntheses Based on Name Reactions: A practical guide to 750 transformations Third Edition (2012).
  • In inorganic chemistry the radicals are simple; in organic chemistry they are compounds—that is the sole difference.
    • Baptiste-André Dumas Joint paper with Liebig, but written by Dumas, Comptes Rendus 1837, 5, 567. Trans. J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4, 351
  • I think chemistry is being frittered away by the hairsplitting of the organic chemists; we have new compounds discovered, which scarcely differ from the known ones and when discovered are valueless—very illustrations perhaps of their refinements in analysis, but very little aiding the progress of true science.
    • Michael Faraday, Letter to William Grove (5 Jan 1845), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), Footnote, 209.
  • I have always had the feeling that organic chemistry is a very peculiar science, that organic chemists are unlike other men, and there are few occupations that give more satisfactions [sic] than masterly experimentation along the old lines of this highly specialised science.
    • Lawrence Joseph Henderson Henderson's memories, unpublished typescript, 85-6, Harvard University Archives 4450.7.2. Quoted in J. S. Fruton, Contrasts in Scientific Style (1990), 194.
  • Since the numbers of functional groups are relatively small, it is possible to classify a very large number of individual compounds by a relatively small number of functional groups. So the first step to enlightenment in organic chemistry is to realize the key role that functional groups play in simplifying the subject, and the second step is to learn the functional groups by name, structure, and formula.
    • Robert V. Hoffman, Organic chemistry : an intermediate text 2nd ed. (2004).
  • In the benzene nucleus we have been given a soil out of which we can see with surprise the already-known realm of organic chemistry multiply, not once or twice but three, four, five or six times just like an equivalent number of trees. What an amount of work had suddenly become necessary, and how quickly were busy hands found to carry it out! First the eye moves up the six stems opening out from the tremendous benzene trunk. But already the branches of the neighbouring stems have become intertwined, and a canopy of leaves has developed which becomes more spacious as the giant soars upwards into the air. The top of the tree rises into the clouds where the eye cannot yet follow it. And to what an extent is this wonderful benzene tree thronged with blossoms! Everywhere in the sea of leaves one can spy the slender hydroxyl bud: hardly rarer is the forked blossom [Gabelblüte] which we call the amine group, the most frequent is the beautiful cross-shaped blossom we call the methyl group. And inside this embellishment of blossoms, what a richness of fruit, some of them shining in a wonderful blaze of color, others giving off an overwhelming fragrance.
    • August Wilhelm von Hofmann A. W. Hofmann, after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest (Mar 1890). Trans. in W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey and Susanne Stark, 'Hofmann's Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities', Journal of Chemical Education (1991), 68, 887-8.
  • What is organic chemistry, and why should you study it? The answers to these questions are all around you. Every living organism is made of organic chemicals. … Anyone with a curiosity about life and living things, and anyone who wants to be a part of the remarkable advances now occurring in medicine and the biological sciences, must first understand organic chemistry.
    • John McMurry, Organic Chemistry 8th ed. (2012), Ch. 1 : Structure and Bonding.
  • It may sound like a lot of work to keep up with organic chemistry, and it is; however, those who haven't the time to do it become subject to decay in the ability to teach and to contribute to the Science—a sort of first-order process the half-life of which can't be much more than a year or two.
  • The present data collection is intended to serve as an aid in the interpretation of molecular spectra for the elucidation and confirmation of the structure of organic compounds. It consists of reference data, spectra, and empirical correlations from 1H, 13C, 19F, and 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), infrared (IR), mass, and ultraviolet–visible (UV/Vis) spectroscopy. It is to be viewed as a supplement to textbooks and specific reference works dealing with these spectroscopic techniques. The use of this book to interpret spectra only requires the knowledge of basic principles of the techniques, but its content is structured in a way that it will serve as a reference book also to specialists.
    • Ernö Pretsch, Philippe Bühlmann, Martin Badertscher (2009), Structure Determination of Organic Compounds (Fourth, Revised and Enlarged Edition), Ch. 1 : Introduction.
  • An organic chemist is primarily concerned with (a) the synthesis of organic molecules of particular interest to the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries and (b) the way these molecules interact in biological pathways.
    • Rakesh Kumar Parashar, Reaction Mechanisms in Organic Synthesis (2009), "Preface".
  • Organic chemistry is the study of organs; inorganic chemistry is the study of the insides of organs.
    • Max Shulman, Barefoot Boy with Cheek (1943), 129.
  • One of the most striking evidences of the reliability of the organic chemist's methods of determining molecular structure is the fact that he has never been able to derive satisfactory structures for supposed molecules which are in fact nonexistent.
    • Louis Plack Hammett, Physical Organic Chemistry; Reaction Rates, Equilibria, and Mechanisms, (1940),38.
  • An diesen Apparate ist nichts neu als seine Einfachkeit und die vollkommene zu Verlaessigkeit, welche er gewaehst.
  • In this apparatus is nothing new but its simplicity and thorough trustworthiness.
    • Justus von Liebig (On his revolutionary method of organic analysis), Poggendorf's Annalen, (1831), 21, 4. Trans. W. H. Brock.
  • It may seem odd that a whole discipline is devoted to the study of a single element in the periodic table, when more than 100 elements exist. It turns out, though, that there are far more organic compounds than any other type. Organic chemicals affect virtually every facet of our lives, and for this reason, it is important and useful to know something about them.
    • Janice G. Smith, Organic Chemistry, 3rd ed. (2011), "Prologue".
  • The goal, as in previous editions is to give equal weight to the three fundamental aspects of the study of organic chemistry: reactions, mechanisms, and structure. A student who has completed a course based on this book should be able to approach the literature directly, with a sound knowledge of modern organic chemistry.
    • Michael B. Smith, March’s Advanced Organic Chemistry : Reactions, Mechanisms, and Structure 7th Ed. (2013), "Preface".
  • Organic chemistry is the chemistry of compounds that contain the element carbon. … carbon compounds are central to the structure of living organisms and therefore to the existence of life on Earth. We exist because of carbon compounds.
    • T. W. Graham Solomons, Craig B. Fryhle and Scott A. Snyder, Organic Chemistry 11th ed. (2013).
  • The emergence of organic chemistry as a scientific discipline heralded a new era in human development. Applications of organic chemistry contributed significantly to satisfying the basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. While expanding our ability to cope with our basic needs remained an important goal, we could, for the first time, wony about the quality of life. Indeed, there appears to be an excellent correlation between investment in research and applications of organic chemistry and the standard of living.
    • Barry M. Trost, "Preface" in Comprehensive Organic Synthesis (1991) edited by Barry M. Trost and Ian Fleming.
  • Typically, the goal of synthesis is to construct complex organic chemicals from simpler, more readily available ones. To be able to convert one molecule into another, chemists must know organic reactions.
    • K. Peter C. Vollhardt, Neil E. Schore (2011) Organic chemistry : structure and function 6th ed. Chapter 1. Structure and Bonding in Organic Molecules.
  • In a way, the “learning” and “using” of organic chemistry is much like learning and using a language. You need the vocabulary (i.e., the reactions) to be able to use the right words, but you also need the grammar (i.e., the mechanisms) to be able to converse intelligently. Neither one on its own gives complete knowledge and understanding, but together they form a powerful means of communication, rationalization, and predictive analysis. To highlight the interplay between reaction and mechanism, icons are displayed in the margin at appropriate places throughout the text.
    • K. Peter C. Vollhardt, Neil E. Schore (2011) Organic chemistry : structure and function 6th ed. Chapter 1. Structure and Bonding in Organic Molecules.
  • The modern definition of organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. What is so special about carbon that a whole branch of chemistry is devoted to its compounds? Unlike most other elements, carbon forms strong bonds to other carbon atoms and to a wide variety of other elements. Chains and rings of carbon atoms can be built up to form an endless variety of molecules. It is this diversity of carbon compounds that provides the basis for life on Earth. Living creatures are composed largely of complex organic compounds that serve structural, chemical, or genetic functions.
    • L. G. Wade, Organic Chemistry 8th ed. (2013), Ch. 1 : Introduction and Review.
  • Organic chemistry has literally placed a new nature beside the old. And not only for the delectation and information of its devotees; the whole face and manner of society has been altered by its products. We are clothed, ornamented and protected by forms of matter foreign to Nature; we travel and are propelled, in, on and by them. Their conquest of our powerful insect enemies, their capacity to modify the soil and control its microscopic flora, their ability to purify and protect our water, have increased the habitable surface of the earth and multiplied our food supply; and the dramatic advances in synthetic medicinal chemistry comfort and maintain us, and create unparalleled social opportunities (and problems).
  • Organic chemistry just now is enough to drive one mad. It gives me the impression of a primeval forest full of the most remarkable things, a monstrous and boundless thicket, with no way of escape, into which one may well dread to enter.
    • Friedrich Wöhler Letter to J.J. Berzelius (28 Jan 1835). In Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Nov 1949), 310. Date of letter as given in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 267. An alternate translation is “Organic chemistry nowadays almost drives one mad to me it appears like a primeval tropical forest full of the most remarkable things a dreadful endless jungle into which one dare not enter for there seems no way out.” as given in J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry (1901), Vol. 4, 327.
  • I am afraid I shall have to give up my trade; I am far too inert to keep up with organic chemistry, it is becoming too much for me, though I may boast of having contributed something to its development. The modern system of formulae is to me quite repulsive.
    • Friedrich Wöhler, Letter to Christian Schönbein (21 May 1862), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), footnote, 225.
  • Chemistry touches everyone's daily life, whether as a source of important drugs, polymers, detergents, or insecticides. Since the field of organic chemistry is intimately involved with the synthesis of these compounds, there is a strong incentive to invest large resources in synthesis. Our ability to predict the usefulness of new organic compounds before they are prepared is still rudimentary. Hence, both in academia and at many chemical companies, research directed toward the discovery of new types of organic compounds continues at an unabated pace. Also, natural products, with their enormous diversity in molecular structure and their possible medicinal use, have been and still are the object of intensive investigations by synthetic organic chemists.
    • George S. Zweifel and Michael H. Nantz, Modern Organic Synthesis (2006), Ch. 1. Synthetic Design.

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