ch1 - WDA01-001-037v3 12:21 Page 1 CHAPTER 1 py...

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1 CHAPTER 1 Introduction and Review p x p y p x p z p y p z 1-1 The Origins of Organic Chemistry 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. The term organic literally means “derived from living organisms.” Original- ly, the science of organic chemistry was the study of compounds extracted from liv- ing organisms and their natural products. Compounds such as sugar, urea, starch, waxes, and plant oils were considered “organic,” and people accepted Vitalism :the belief that natural products needed a “vital force” to create them. Organic chem- istry, then, was the study of compounds having the vital force. Inorganic chemistry was the study of gases, rocks, and minerals and the compounds that could be made from them. In the nineteenth century, experiments showed that organic compounds could be synthesized from inorganic compounds. In 1828, the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler converted ammonium cyanate, made from ammonia and cyanic acid, to urea simply by heating it in the absence of oxygen. Urea had always come from living organisms and was presumed to contain the vital force, yet ammonium cyanate is inorganic and thus lacks the vital force. Some chemists claimed that a trace of vital force from Wöhler’s hands must have contaminated the reaction, but most recognized the possibility of synthesizing organic compounds from inorganics. Many other syntheses were carried out, and the vital force theory was eventually discarded. Since Vitalism was disproved in the early nineteenth century, you’d think it would be extinct by now. And you’d be wrong! Vitalism lives on today in the minds of those who believe that “natural” (plant-derived) vitamins, flavor compounds, etc. are somehow different and more healthful than the identical “artificial” (synthesized) compounds. NH 4 1 2 OCN heat H 2 N 9 C 9 NH 2 O urea (organic) ammonium cyanate (inorganic) The Jarvik 7 artificial heart, composed largely of synthetic organic materials. WDA01-001-037v3 7/22/02 12:21 Page 1
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2 Chapter 1: Introduction and Review N N CH 3 nicotine glucose OH OH COOH OH O O HO carmine Four examples of organic compounds in living organisms. Tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive alkaloid. Rose hips contain vitamin C, essential for preventing scurvy. The red dye carmine comes from cochineal insects, shown on prickly pear cactus. Opium poppies contain morphine, a pain-relieving, addictive alkaloid.
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ch1 - WDA01-001-037v3 12:21 Page 1 CHAPTER 1 py...

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