Organic Chemistry or Carbon Chemistry is the branch of chemistry that studies a large class of molecules that contain carbon by forming carbon-carbon or carbon-hydrogen covalent bonds, also known as organic compounds. Friedrich Wöhler and Archibald Scott Couper are known as the "fathers" of organic chemistry.


Organic chemistry was established as a discipline in the 1930s. The development of new methods of analysis of substances of animal and vegetable origin, based on the use of solvents such as ether or alcohol, allowed the isolation of a large number of organic substances that received the name of "immediate principles". The emergence of organic chemistry is often associated with the discovery in 1828 by the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler that the inorganic substance ammonium cyanate could be converted to urea, an organic substance found in the urine of many animals. Before this discovery, chemists believed that in order to synthesize organic substances, the intervention of what they called 'the vital force', that is, living organisms, was necessary. Wöhler's experiment broke the barrier between organic and inorganic substances. Modern chemists consider organic compounds those that contain carbon and hydrogen, and other elements (which can be one or more), the most common being: oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and the halogens.

Information sources

The task of presenting organic chemistry in a systematic and global way was carried out through a publication that emerged in Germany, founded by the chemist Friedrich Konrad Beilstein (1838-1906). His Handbuch der organischen Chemie (Handbook of Organic Chemistry) began publication in Hamburg in 1880 and consisted of two volumes containing information on some fifteen thousand known organic compounds. When the Deutsche chemische Gesellschaft (German Chemical Society) tried to produce the fourth re-edition, in the second decade of the 20th century, the number of organic compounds had increased tenfold. Thirty-seven volumes were required for the basic edition, which appeared between 1916 and 1937. A 27-volume supplement was published in 1938, collecting information that appeared between 1910 and 1919. Currently, the Fünftes Ergänzungswerk (Fifth Supplementary Series) is being edited. ), which collects the documentation published between 1960 and 1979. In order to offer its latest works more quickly, the Beilstein Institut has created the Beilstein Online service, which has been in operation since 1988. Recently, a CD-ROM, Beilstein Current Facts in Chemistry, which selects chemical information from leading journals. This information is currently available on the Internet.

The chemistry of carbon

The large number of organic compounds that exist can be explained by the characteristics of the carbon atom, which has four electrons in its valence shell: according to the octet rule, it needs eight to complete it, so it forms four bonds (valence = 4) with other atoms. This special electronic configuration gives rise to a variety of possibilities for orbital hybridization of the carbon atom (chemical hybridization).

See also: Hybridization (chemistry)
See also: Lewis structure
The simplest organic molecule that exists is Methane. In this molecule, the Carbon presents sp3 hybridization, with the hydrogen atoms forming a tetrahedron.

Methane. The carbon forms covalent bonds easily to reach a stable configuration, these bonds are easily formed with other carbons, which allows it to frequently form open chains (linear or branched) and closed chains (rings).


The simplest compound is methane, a carbon atom with four hydrogen atoms (valence = 1), but carbon-carbon bonds can also occur, forming chains of different types, since single, double or triple bonds can occur. When the rest of the bonds of these chains are with hydrogen, we speak of hydrocarbons, which can be:

Saturated: with simple covalent bonds, alkanes.
Unsaturated, with double covalent bonds (alkenes) or triples (alkynes).
Aromatics: cyclic structure.


The radicals are fragments of carbon chains that hang from the main chain. Its nomenclature is made with the corresponding root (in the case of a carbon met-, two carbons et-...) and the suffix -il. In addition, the position they occupy is indicated with a number, placed in front. The simplest compound that can be made with radicals is 2-methylpropane. In case there is more than one radical, they will be named in alphabetical order of the roots. For example, 2-ethyl, 5-methyl, 8-butyl, 10-docosene.


Isomers of C6H12.Since carbon can bond in different ways, a chain can have different bond configurations, giving rise to so-called isomers, molecules with the same chemical formula but different structures and properties.

Functional groups

Organic compounds can also contain other elements, also groups of atoms, called functional groups. An example is the hydroxyl group, which forms alcohols: an oxygen atom bonded to a hydrogen atom (-OH), which has a free valence remaining.


They are carbon chains with one or more oxygen atoms. They may be:

Carboxylic acids

organic compounds

The compounds studied can be divided into:

aliphatic compounds
aromatic compounds
heterocyclic compounds
organometallic compounds


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