Part of the Macmillan Master Series book series
Once upon a time chemicals were neatly divided into two:
But then Wöhler successfully made the organic chemical urea (present in urine) starting with purely inorganic chemicals. Thus it seemed that ‘life force’ might not exist, that there was no fundamental difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Nevertheless, the chemicals of life do fall naturally into one class, in which particular elements are linked through similar bonds. Today, in spite of its ill-defined boundaries, organic chemistry is a vast subject in its own right. It is a subject based on carbon, the one element whose atoms can join into long chains, branched chains and rings and at the same time bond with other elements. It is this versatility that makes carbon a good choice for life.
Organic chemicals were created by or were part of a living organism. These held ‘life force’.
Inorganic chemicals were derived from rocks and other lifeless objects. These contained no ‘life force’.
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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1982