The learning about and learning how to use organic chemistry is not a straightforward process, wherein one step leads to another in a simple, logical way like Euclidean geometry. A more realistic analogy would be to consider yourself thrust into and required to deal successfully with a sizable group of strangers speaking a new and complex language. In such a situation, one has to make many decisions- how much of the language to learn at the outset? Which people are the best to interact with first? Which will be the most important to know in the long run? How well does one have to know each person? How much does one have to know about the history of the group to understand their interactions? These are difficult questions, and a period of confusion, if not anxiety, is expected in any attempt to complete a task of this kind in a set, brief period of time. Clearly, it would be difficult to learn all at once the language, the people, and the interactions between them. Nonetheless, this is pretty much what is expected of you in learning organic chemistry.
- 1.1: Prelude to Organic Chemistry
- You now are starting the study of organic chemistry, which is the chemistry of compounds of carbon. In this introductory chapter, we will tell you something of the background and history of organic chemistry, something of the problems and the rewards involved, and something of our philosophy of what is important for you to learn so that you will have a reasonable working knowledge of the subject, whether you are just interested in chemistry or plan for a STEM career.
- 1.2: A Bit of History
- Try to visualize the problems confronting the organic chemist of 100 years ago. You will have no more than reasonably pure samples of organic compounds, the common laboratory chemicals of today, glassware, balances, thermometers, means of measuring densities, and a few optical instruments. You also will have a relatively embryonic theory that there are molecules in those bottles and that one compound differs from another because its molecules have different members, kinds or arrangements of atom
- 1.3: What Preparation Should You Have?
- We have tried to give you a taste of the beginnings of organic chemistry and a few of the important principles that brought order out of the confusion that existed as to the nature of organic compounds. Before moving on to other matters, it may be well to give you some ideas of what kind of preparation will be helpful to you in learning about organic chemistry from this textbook.
- 1.4: Why Is Organic Chemistry Special?
- One very important factor that make so much of chemistry center on a single element is that carbon-carbon bonds are strong, so long chains or rings of bonded carbon atoms are possible. Carbon is not unique in forming bonds to itself because other elements such as boron, silicon, and phosphorus form strong bonds in the elementary state. The uniqueness of carbon stems more from the fact that it forms strong carbon-carbon bonds that also are strong when in combination with other elements.
- 1.5: The Breadth of Organic Chemistry
- Organic chemistry originally was defined as the chemistry of those substances formed by living matter. However, after the discovery that a supposedly typical organic compound, urea, could be prepared by heating ammonium cyanate, this definition lost significance and organic chemistry now is broadly defined as the chemistry of carbon-containing compounds.
- 1.6: Some Philosophical Observations
- As you proceed with your study of organic chemistry, you may well feel confused as to what it is you are actually dealing with. On the one hand, there will be exhortations to remember how organic chemistry pervades our everyday life. A useful method for developing this sort of feeling for the relationship between structures and actual compounds is to check your perception of particular substances with their properties as given in a chemical handbook.
- 1.E: Introduction to Organic Chemistry (Exercises)
- These are the homework exercises to accompany Chapter 1 of the Textmap for Basic Principles of Organic Chemistry (Roberts and Caserio).
Thumbnail: Close up of coffee beans, photo taken for espresso flickr group. (CC BY 2.0 Generic; Nate Steiner).
Contributors and Attributions
John D. Robert and Marjorie C. Caserio (1977) Basic Principles of Organic Chemistry, second edition. W. A. Benjamin, Inc. , Menlo Park, CA. ISBN 0-8053-8329-8. This content is copyrighted under the following conditions, "You are granted permission for individual, educational, research and non-commercial reproduction, distribution, display and performance of this work in any format."