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Chapter 4 Notes


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P a g e | 1 [ CAMPBELL BIOLOGY: CHAPTER 3 NOTES ] Overview: Carbon – The Backbone of Biological Molecules • Although cells are 70–95% water, the rest consists mostly of carbon-based compounds. • Carbon is unparalleled in its ability to form large, complex, and diverse molecules. • Carbon accounts for the diversity of biological molecules and has made possible the great diversity of living things. • Proteins, DNA, carbohydrates, and other molecules that distinguish living matter from inorganic material are all composed of carbon atoms bonded to each other and to atoms of other elements. • These other elements commonly include hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), and phosphorus (P). Concept 4.1 Organic chemistry is the study of carbon compounds • The study of carbon compounds, organic chemistry, deals with any compound with carbon (organic compounds). • Organic compounds can range from simple molecules, such as CO2 or CH4, to complex molecules such as proteins, which may weigh more than 100,000 daltons. • The overall percentages of the major elements of life (C, H, O, N, S, and P) are quite uniform from one organism to another. • However, because of carbon’s versatility, these few elements can be combined to build an inexhaustible variety of organic molecules. • Variations in organic molecules can distinguish even between individuals of a single species. • The science of organic chemistry began in attempts to purify and improve the yield of products obtained from other organisms. • Initially, chemists learned to synthesize simple compounds in the laboratory, but had no success with more complex compounds. • The Swedish chemist Jons Jacob Berzelius was the first to make a distinction between organic compounds that seemed to arise only in living organisms and inorganic compounds that were found in the nonliving world. • This led early organic chemists to propose vitalism, the belief that physical and chemical laws did not apply to living things. • Support for vitalism began to wane as organic chemists learned to synthesize complex organic compounds in the laboratory. • In the early 1800s, the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler and his students were able to synthesize urea from totally inorganic materials.
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P a g e | 2 • In 1953, Stanley Miller at the University of Chicago set up a laboratory simulation of chemical conditions on the primitive Earth and demonstrated the spontaneous synthesis of organic compounds. • Such spontaneous synthesis of organic compounds may have been an early stage in the origin of life. • Organic chemists finally rejected vitalism and embraced mechanism, accepting that the same physical
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