Organic Chemistry (Encyclopedia of Science)
Organic chemistry is the study of compounds of carbon. The name organic goes back to a much earlier time in history when chemists thought that chemical compounds in living organisms were fundamentally different from those that occur in nonliving things. The belief was that the chemicals that could be extracted from or that were produced by living organisms had a special "vitalism" or "breath of life" given to them by some supernatural being. As such, they presented fundamentally different kinds of problems than did the chemicals found in rocks, minerals, water, air, and other nonliving entities. The chemical compounds associated with living organisms were given the name organic to emphasize their connection with life.
In 1828, German chemist Friedrich Wöhler (1800882) proved that this theory of vitalism was untrue. He found a very simple way to convert chemical compounds from living organisms into comparable compounds from nonliving entities.
As a result of Wöhler's research, the definition of organic chemistry changed. The new definition was based on the observation that every compound discovered in living organisms had one property in common: they all contained the element carbon. As a result, the modern definition of organic chemistrys the study of carbon compoundsas adopted.
Organic and inorganic chemistry
(The entire section is 845 words.)
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