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Chemistry LibreTexts

1: Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry

  • Page ID
    227505

  • What is Inorganic Chemistry?

    Early in scientific history, as chemists began discovering the building blocks of all matter, they divided molecules into two primary categories; those that came from living things (organic molecules) and those that came from non-living things (inorganic molecules). The first molecules that were purified from living organisms contained carbon, while those purified from non-living rocks and minerals contained other elements, but not carbon. These names and classifications of molecules have persisted even though they are misnomers. Organic chemistry can be defined as the study of carbon-containing molecules, while inorganic chemistry is the study of molecules containing elements across the whole periodic table (including carbon!). At a fundamental level, an important distinction between "organic" and "inorganic" materials seems to lie, for most scientists, at the electronic structure and properties of the materials. Probably the best way to understand the nature of this field, in its modern form, is to peruse the titles of current articles in a credible Inorganic Chemistry journal. Click here to see the top 20 most read articles in the journal, Inorganic Chemistry.

    Inorganic chemists study the chemical structure and reactivity of inorganic compounds. But to understand the behavior of compounds, we need to start with a firm understanding of atomic structure, and how atomic structure results in periodic trends. This chapter explores the structure of atoms based on quantum theory.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\). An illustration of the historic meaning of "organic" and "inorganic". The modern understanding of organic and inorganic chemistry is not consistent with these historical meanings.

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    Practice

    What are the Sub-Fields of Inorganic Chemistry?

    To appreciate the breadth of Inorganic Chemistry, go to the most recent issue of Inorganic Chemistry and look at the titles and visual abstracts. Identify at least 4 sub-fields of Inorganic Chemistry.

    Answer

    There are a lot of correct answers here! The point here is that you notice that Inorganic Chemistry is a very broad field. It has something for almost everyone because many other fields overlap with Inorganic Chemistry. You might notice that some of the sub-fields you identified are also interdisciplinary fields between inorganic chemistry and another discipline. For a list of some of the subfields of Inorganic Chemistry, check this Wikipedia article.

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