Virtual Textbook of Organic Chemistry


Organic chemistry is most commonly and simply defined as the chemistry of carbon compounds. Compared with hydrogen and helium, carbon is not an abundant element in the universe, nor in the solar system; but it is an essential element of life. Indeed, four elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen make up most of the matter found in living organisms. Trace elements such as sulfur, phosphorous, sodium, potassium and iron, to name a few, also play an important role in the chemistry of life; but it is the unique properties of carbon that permits the immense diversity of compounds associated with life. From simple single-carbon compounds such as methane and carbon dioxide to the more complex structures found in vitamins, hormones and enzymes, and ultimately to very large macromolecules like DNA, carbon is the underlying essential structural component.

Since the birth of organic chemistry over two hundred years ago, chemists have worked to unravel the structural complexities of these compounds. Today, all the facts and principles they have learned are consolidated in our texts and journals. Industrial applications have led to the manufacture of medicinal agents (drugs), synthetic fibers, plastics, dyes, pesticides and a host of other useful materials. Clearly, organic chemistry has touched all our lives. The study of organic chemistry is both fascinating and relevant, due in large part to the widespread distribution of both natural and synthetic organic chemicals.
The names of many early and some contemporary chemists are associated with important concepts and reactions. Whenever possible their names have been linked to the MSU photo-portrait gallery assembled by professor Harold Hart.

Two more or less identical versions of this text are available for use. The original version made use of the Chime® plugin for the visualization of 3D-molecular models. This software works well, but is incompatible with Macintosh OS-X browsers among others. The text has now been converted to use the new Jmol applet for model visualization. As long as the browser is enabled to use Java applets, this version should function well and does not require an external plugin. Select the version you wish to use by clicking on one of the buttons displayed below. The opening Table of Contents page will include a link to a test window in which examples of the 3D-models and other features are presented as a test of the viewing system.

Chime-based Text
Jmol-based Text

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1999 William Reusch, All rights reserved   (most recent revision 3/10/2006)
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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Virtual Text of Organic Chemistry 1999 An interactive textbook covering the usual topics treated in a college sophomore-level course. Links are offered to advanced discussions of selected topics. William Reusch