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Author: Subject: Can you start by learning organic chem without learning basic chem?
DMTiGGer
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[*] posted on 4-11-2012 at 12:06
Can you start by learning organic chem without learning basic chem?


Hello all.

I am a curious layman, I did biology and physics A-Level and went on to do a degree in physics, so I have always missed the chemistry component to my eduction. I am most interested in organic chemistry, medicine and pharmacology ... but I don't really know where to start. Am considering an open university course.

Just I am not sure if I should start straight away with organic chemistry (which is my main interest) or if I am jumping the gun by learning from here as a starting point? Any online resources you know of where I can start to read up on this subject would be great and much appreciated :)

Many thanks.




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Hexavalent
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[*] posted on 4-11-2012 at 12:15


Walk before you run.

Learn the basics of general chemistry - the periodic table, the elements, electronic structures, orbitals and valencies, acids and bases (pH, pKa, Ka, etc.), compounds, bonding, how reactions occur etc. - then apply this to test-tube inorganic reactions. Learn how the elements behave and interact with one another. Then - and only then - learn your organic. Start with the properties of carbon, then look at carbon chains, rings, functional groups, nomenclature, reactivity, organic reactions (and then mechanisms), resonance structures and further.

I would strongly recommend getting a basic chemistry textbook, and working through it. Use an old GCSE and A-level revision book if needed, that's what I did. Then, I would advise you get 'The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments', and work through it. After this, a book I'd recommend for organic is 'Organic Chemistry for Dummies', and 'Keynotes in Organic Chemistry'.

Good luck, and take your time.

Happy chemistry!

[Edited on 4-11-2012 by Hexavalent]




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smaerd
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[*] posted on 4-11-2012 at 12:53


You don't necessarily have to know 'general chemistry' before going on to organic chemistry. Though you will have your work cut out for you. General chemistry is taught first for a number of reasons. It helps to know about basic molecular geometries for simple structures before picturing a 'large' one. Instead of jumping ahead to boat and chair conformations and chirality.

General chemistry covers basic thermodynamics which is pretty important. Definitely would want to know that stuff. Same with the concepts of equilibria. Definitely want to understand basic chemical reactions and stoichiometry as well. I really wouldn't skip ahead now that I think about it. Especially if you want to learn pharmacology. You may not necessarily need to know everything in general chemistry to be able to 'do' organic chemistry, but it really helps conceptually putting a lot of things together.

Other-wise you'd probably be memorizing the what 40-50 reactions and at that point you might as well be using an index or reference rather then gaining the intuition.

I wouldn't really recommend reading cliff-notes of organic chemistry(skimmed through one of those today), pick up a text book for like 5 bucks at a used book-store and a pile of graph paper at an office store. Make sure you can find a solutions manual as well, it's impossible to learn this sort of thing without one. My professor didn't lecture(not an exaggeration he was in his office during class hours) for Organic I or II so we did have to teach ourselves. Most people ended up cheating(lots of cheating going on around me) or doing poorly riding the curve. I got a well deserved A because I put the hours in. There are videos on you-tube to help ya out. My advice is draw the mechanism for every problem you answer. Do it everyday for a year or so and research things you can't quite grasp or are interested in. After that you'll be in proper shape to move on to an electron pushing text(The Art of Writing Reasonable Organic Reactions), then after that you could move on to an Advanced Organic text-book(usually two parts about 1,000 pages each).

As far as pharmacology I know nothing about it but I imagine it isn't something you can just pick up on weekends. I've seen the books for that kind of stuff and they look large and comprehensive. Probably would want to know bio-chemistry very well before treading into that kind of water. Lehringers(author) has an excellent text-book for that(hopefully I spelled that right).

Personally I'd enroll in a university to learn it all. That way after the years of studying you have a degree in it and can get a job(that little piece of paper does have some level of relevance in the real world). Also if you have a question you can get an immediate answer from a professor, and can see examples rather then reading a cold text-book. It's definitely possible to self-teach but the hands on experimentation is expensive and there are severe limitations on product characterization at home(for the experimental side). It also will require a lot of dedication.

edit - its a wonderful thing to take an interest in. I hear the job market isn't too great right now though. I've been studying it for 2 years now, one year in organic classes, and a year of immense fascination.Some people have a hard time doing it because it is very visual and patternistic, but that can also play to other people's advantage. The more I learn about it the more I realize how little I actually know.

[Edited on 4-11-2012 by smaerd]




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bbartlog
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[*] posted on 4-11-2012 at 16:25


I can recommend Linus Pauling's book 'General Chemistry' as a way to get a reasonable overall understanding before moving on to organic chemistry specifically.



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Dr.Bob
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[*] posted on 5-11-2012 at 05:56


Much of organic chemistry can be done as an empirical science without knowing all general chemistry. I have forgotten much of the most mundane details of general chemistry, but if you understand electronegativity, valence, and balancing equations (at least a little bit), then you can do most organic chemistry OK. It depends what you wish to do. If you are going to just do simple experiments for the fun of doing them, no big deal. If you hope to devise novel methods, it will be difficult without more wide ranging knowledge, but even that is becoming less critical with easier access to the literature and databases. I will admit that some of it makes you forget how to think critically as well as before, when you had to memorize more and there was no easy way to search the literature for reactions. (I don't count CAS Abstracts hard copy as "easy".) Even STN was a pain to use, compared to REACS and SciFinder. But find a few older chemistry books, like Vogel, Fieser, maybe Carey's Intro to Organic book. And look at MIT and other sites for online courses and lectures.
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DMTiGGer
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[*] posted on 5-11-2012 at 08:48


Quote: Originally posted by smaerd  
Some people have a hard time doing it because it is very visual and patternistic, but that can also play to other people's advantage.


That definitely plays to my advantage, I'm very good with patterns and images, really good at music and maths. I've picked up a lot of pharmacology from advanced drug discussion at bluelight, but learning pharmacology without learning the organic chemistry is just getting me in a muddle when I try to apply it practically.

And thanks for the recommendations, I'm swimming in ebook heaven right now :)





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[*] posted on 5-11-2012 at 09:34


For me it is very simple. If you don't teach yourself walking, you will never be able to run.

Doing organic chemistry without proper understanding of the basics is not very rewarding, and it is not entertaining at all. If you don't have any understanding, then what remains? Just memorizing tables and formulas? Is that all you want? I can tell you right now, that soon, very soon, you will have lost all interest if you don't do the basics.

So, pick up a textbook on general chemistry and teach yourself the basics about the periodic table, teach yourself the ability to balance equations and to compute weight ratios from these by means of molar masses. Also try to get an understanding of equilibria, equilibrium constants, acids and bases and redox chemistry. Only if you have at least some understanding of these things, then you can proceed to organic chemistry.

Getting an understanding of general chemistry makes the difference between cookery and chemistry.




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[*] posted on 9-11-2012 at 20:57


Quote: Originally posted by woelen  

Getting an understanding of general chemistry makes the difference between cookery and chemistry.


Well said Woelen, I agree. The tricks you learn with basic chemistry knowledge will make any organic chemistry you do plenty easier.

I would highly recommend learning VSEPR bonding theory, since geometry can play a huge role in reactivity.




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[*] posted on 14-11-2012 at 00:30


General chemistry is more about learning to think through problems than the details of the chemistry. I don't know any other science that is quite like it. Biology and Geology, as well as the related botany, paleo, soils, etc. are all full of various degrees of dogma and catechisms.. Chemistry has little if any of that. Physics is the root science and chemistry is the central science. Take the two undergraduate courses they will serve you the rest of your life. Quantitative analysis will make it so much easier to develop good lab procedures its worth taking too. From there on I'd focus completely on organic. Don't let anyone tell you it's not necessary to memorize. Knowing a lot of mechanisms will make life easier in the organic lab.



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[*] posted on 14-11-2012 at 14:24


I'd read a good textbook on general chem first, it'll give you a good grounding that will enable you to learn o-chem much more effectively, similar to how your knowledge of physics will give you a big head start in learning chem.

[Edited on 14-11-2012 by mycotheologist]
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[*] posted on 18-11-2012 at 08:07


Quote: Originally posted by bbartlog  
I can recommend Linus Pauling's book 'General Chemistry' as a way to get a reasonable overall understanding before moving on to organic chemistry specifically.


I also highly recommend Pauling's book.

A committed autodidact can of course learn anything, but a semester of general chemistry is almost a must as far as I am concerned. There's simply some base-level information (e.g., memorizing ionic compounds and the properties of electronegativity of the various elements) that's just very difficult to learn on your own. Maybe not "difficult" in the sense that it's actually hard, but it's so boring that it's very difficult to motivate yourself to do so! Once you really get to the point where your general chem knowledge is more or less effortless, it's pretty easy to pick up organic chemistry.
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[*] posted on 18-11-2012 at 10:42


you still need to know some basic stuff like stochiometry, ions, basic principles of reaction equilibrium and a little quantum electrodynamics. organic reactions are more complex and you won't understand a reductive substitution reaction without first understanding what reduction is in the first place (taking electrons). and i forgot equation balancing. they teach all of this in basic highschool chemistry, including stuff about esters, hydrocarbons, inorganic chemistry and a few other things at a very superficial level. you can't understand anything more complex without knowing these fundamentals.
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[*] posted on 18-11-2012 at 13:56


I think it is possible. I am a big advocate of teaching orgo through the traditional electronic/mechanistic perspective. Less memorization, and more real learning you can apply to other unknowns.
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weschem
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[*] posted on 18-11-2012 at 20:47


I would really suggest against it. Like its probably been said before. It's like trying to build something without having the proper tools.
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