12.1 General Introduction

Organic compounds are vital for sustaining life on earth and include complex molecules like genetic information bearing deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and proteins that constitute essential compounds of our blood, muscles and skin.

Organic compounds appear in materials like clothing, fuels, polymers, dyes and medicines. These are some of the important areas of application of these compounds. Science of organic chemistry is about two hundred years old.

Around the year 1780, chemists began to distinguish between organic compounds obtained from plants and animals and inorganic compounds prepared from mineral sources.

Berzilius, a Swedish chemist proposed that a ‘vital force’ was responsible for the formation of organic compounds.

However, this notion was rejected in 1828 when F. Wohler synthesised an organic compound, urea from an inorganic compound, ammonium cyanate.

NH4CNO          →    NH2CONH2

Ammonium cyanate            Urea

The pioneering synthesis of acetic acid by Kolbe (1845) and that of methane by Berthelot (1856) showed conclusively that organic compounds could be synthesised from inorganic sources in a laboratory.

The development of electronic theory of covalent bonding ushered organic chemistry into its modern shape.

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