An organic compound
is any member of a large class of chemical compounds
. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of compounds such as carbonates
, simple oxides
of carbon and cyanides
, as well as the allotropes of carbon
, are considered inorganic
. The division between "organic" and "inorganic" carbon compounds while "useful in organizing the vast subject of chemistry...is somewhat arbitrary".
Organic chemistry is the science concerned with all aspects of organic compounds. Organic synthesis is the methodology of their preparation.
The name "organic" is historical, dating back to the 19th century, when it was believed that organic compounds could only be synthesized in living organisms through vis vitalis
- the "life-force". The theory that organic compounds were fundamentally different from those that were "inorganic", that is, not synthesized through a life-force, was disproved with the synthesis of urea
, an "organic" compound by definition of its known occurrence only in the urine of living organisms, from potassium cyanate and ammonium sulfate by Friedrich Wöhler
in the Wöhler synthesis
. The kinds of carbon compounds that are still traditionally considered inorganic
are those that were considered inorganic before Wöhler's time; that is, those which came from "inorganic" (i.e., lifeless) sources such as minerals
- See Organic chemistry#Classification of organic substances
Organic compounds may contain atoms of further elements, so-called heteroatoms.
Organometallic compounds constitute a further subsection, characterized by covalent bonds between organic carbon and a metal.
There is also a large number of inorganic carbon compounds to distinguish from organic compounds.
An important subset of organic compounds is still extracted from natural sources because they would be far too expensive to be produced artificially. Examples include most sugars
, some alkaloids
, certain nutrients such as vitamin B12
, and in general, those natural products with large or stereoisometrically complicated molecules which are present in reasonable concentrations in living organisms.
Further compounds of prime importance in biochemistry are antigens, carbohydrates, enzymes, hormones, lipids and fatty acids, neurotransmitters, nucleic acids, proteins, peptides and amino acids, vitamins and fats and oils.
, including all plastics
are organic compounds.
The IUPAC nomenclature of organic compounds
slightly differs from the CAS
- The CAS database is the most comprehensive repository for data on organic compounds. The search tool SciFinder is offered .
- The Beilstein database contains information on 9.8 million substances, covers the scientific literature from 1771 to the present, and is today accessible via CrossFire. Structures and a large diversity of physical and chemical properties is available for each substance, with reference to original literature.
- PubChem contains 18.4 million entries on compounds and especially covers the field of medicinal chemistry.
There is a great number of more specialized databases for diverse branches of organic chemistry.
- ''See Structure determination
Today, the main tools are proton and carbon-13 NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography.