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An oil painting of a chemist (by Henrika Šantel in 1932).

Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances.

In the scope of its subject, chemistry occupies an intermediate position between physics and biology. It is sometimes called the central science because it provides a foundation for understanding both basic and applied scientific disciplines at a fundamental level. For example, chemistry explains aspects of plant chemistry (botany), the formation of igneous rocks (geology), how atmospheric ozone is formed and how environmental pollutants are degraded (ecology), the properties of the soil on the moon (astrophysics), how medications work (pharmacology), and how to collect DNA evidence at a crime scene (forensics).

Chemistry addresses topics such as how atoms and molecules interact via chemical bonds to form new chemical compounds. There are four types of chemical bonds: covalent bonds, in which compounds share one or more electron(s); ionic bonds, in which a compound donates one or more electrons to another compound to produce ions (cations and anions); hydrogen bonds; and Van der Waals force bonds.

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Ribbon diagram of phenylalanine hydroxylase, an enzyme which catalyses the reaction causing the addition of an hydroxyl group to the end of the 6-carbon aromatic ring of phenylalanine, such that it becomes tyrosine.
Enzymes are proteins that accelerate, or catalyze, chemical reactions. In these reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates, and the enzyme converts these into different molecules, the products. Almost all processes in the cell need enzymes in order to occur at significant rates. Since enzymes are extremely selective for their substrates and speed up only a few reactions from among many possibilities, the set of enzymes made in a cell determines which metabolic pathways occur in that cell.

Enzymes are known to catalyze about 4,000 reactions. However, not all biological catalysts are proteins, since some RNA molecules called ribozymes can also catalyze reactions. Enzymes are usually named according to the reaction they catalyze. Typically the suffix -ase is added to the name of the substrate (e.g., lactase is the enzyme that cleaves lactose) or the type of reaction (e.g., DNA polymerase forms DNA polymers).

Like all catalysts, enzymes work by providing an alternative path of lower activation energy for a reaction and dramatically accelerating its rate. Some enzymes can make their conversion of substrate to product occur many millions of times faster. For example, the reaction catalysed by orotidine 5'-phosphate decarboxylase will consume half of its substrate in 78 million years if no enzyme is present. However, when the decarboxylase is added, the same process takes just 25 milliseconds. Chemically, enzymes are like any catalyst and are not consumed in chemical reactions, nor do they alter the equilibrium of a reaction. However, enzymes do differ from most other catalysts by being much more specific.

Enzyme activity can be affected by other molecules. Inhibitors are molecules that decrease enzyme activity, and activators are molecules that increase activity. Drugs and poisons are often enzyme inhibitors.

Some enzymes are used commercially, for example, in the synthesis of antibiotics. In addition, some household cleaning products use enzymes to speed up chemical reactions (e.g., enzymes in biological washing powders break down protein or fat stains on clothes).


History and Philosophy of Chemistry

Antoine Lavoisier

Many chemists have an interest in the history of chemistry. Those with philosophical interests will be interested that the philosophy of chemistry has quite recently developed along a path somewhat different from the general philosophy of science.

Other articles that might interest you are:

There is a Wikipedia Project on the History of Science.

Chemistry Resources

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Wikipedia:WikiProject Chemicals/Data is a collection of links and references that are useful for chemistry-related works. This includes free online chemical databases, publications, patents, computer programs, and various tools. A good place to figure out what equals what.

General Chemistry Online Clear text and comprehensive coverage of general chemistry topics by Fred Senese, Dept. of Chemistry Frostburg State University

General Chemistry Demonstration at Purdue Video clips (and descriptions) of lecture demonstrations.

Chemistry Webercises Directory A large listing of chemistry resources maintained by Steven Murov, Emeritus Chemistry Professor Modesto Junior College.

MathMol MathMol (Mathematics and Molecules) is a good starting point for those interested in the field of molecular modeling.

ABC-Chemistry A directory of free full-text journals in chemistry, biochemistry and related subjects.

The Element Song A goofy little song about all of the elements.

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Paclitaxel is an important drug used for the treatment of cancer. Its complex structure provided a challenging target for its total synthesis by the Nicolaou group. The colors indicate the approach they used.

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Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French microbiologist and chemist. He was the first to demonstrate chirality of molecules, using tartaric acid crystals, but this achievement is often overlooked in favor of his more famous work in biology and medicine. He is best known for demonstrating how to prevent milk and wine from going sour, a process which came to be called pasteurization. His experiments confirmed the germ theory of disease, and he created the first vaccine for rabies. He became one of the main founders of bacteriology, the other major figure being Robert Koch. Pasteur also discovered anaerobiosis, whereby some microorganisms can develop and live without air or oxygen.

Techniques used by chemists

Equipment used by chemists

Chemistry in society

Chemistry in industry



Periodic Table

Group 1 2 3   4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Alkali metals Alkaline earth metals Pnicto­gens Chal­co­gens Halo­gens Noble gases


Hydro­gen1H1.008 He­lium2He4.0026
2 Lith­ium3Li6.94 Beryl­lium4Be9.0122 Boron5B10.81 Carbon6C12.011 Nitro­gen7N14.007 Oxy­gen8O15.999 Fluor­ine9F18.998 Neon10Ne20.180
3 So­dium11Na22.990 Magne­sium12Mg24.305 Alumin­ium13Al26.982 Sili­con14Si28.085 Phos­phorus15P30.974 Sulfur16S32.06 Chlor­ine17Cl35.45 Argon18Ar39.95
4 Potas­sium19K39.098 Cal­cium20Ca40.078 Scan­dium21Sc44.956 Tita­nium22Ti47.867 Vana­dium23V50.942 Chrom­ium24Cr51.996 Manga­nese25Mn54.938 Iron26Fe55.845 Cobalt27Co58.933 Nickel28Ni58.693 Copper29Cu63.546 Zinc30Zn65.38 Gallium31Ga69.723 Germa­nium32Ge72.630 Arsenic33As74.922 Sele­nium34Se78.971 Bromine35Br79.904 Kryp­ton36Kr83.798
5 Rubid­ium37Rb85.468 Stront­ium38Sr87.62 Yttrium39Y88.906 Zirco­nium40Zr91.224 Nio­bium41Nb92.906 Molyb­denum42Mo95.95 Tech­netium43Tc​[97] Ruthe­nium44Ru101.07 Rho­dium45Rh102.91 Pallad­ium46Pd106.42 Silver47Ag107.87 Cad­mium48Cd112.41 Indium49In114.82 Tin50Sn118.71 Anti­mony51Sb121.76 Tellur­ium52Te127.60 Iodine53I126.90 Xenon54Xe131.29
6 Cae­sium55Cs132.91 Ba­rium56Ba137.33 Lan­thanum57La138.91 1 asterisk Haf­nium72Hf178.49 Tanta­lum73Ta180.95 Tung­sten74W183.84 Rhe­nium75Re186.21 Os­mium76Os190.23 Iridium77Ir192.22 Plat­inum78Pt195.08 Gold79Au196.97 Mer­cury80Hg200.59 Thallium81Tl204.38 Lead82Pb207.2 Bis­muth83Bi208.98 Polo­nium84Po​[209] Asta­tine85At​[210] Radon86Rn​[222]
7 Fran­cium87Fr​[223] Ra­dium88Ra​[226] Actin­ium89Ac​[227] 1 asterisk Ruther­fordium104Rf​[267] Dub­nium105Db​[268] Sea­borgium106Sg​[269] Bohr­ium107Bh​[270] Has­sium108Hs​[269] Meit­nerium109Mt​[278] Darm­stadtium110Ds​[281] Roent­genium111Rg​[282] Coper­nicium112Cn​[285] Nihon­ium113Nh​[286] Flerov­ium114Fl​[289] Moscov­ium115Mc​[290] Liver­morium116Lv​[293] Tenness­ine117Ts​[294] Oga­nesson118Og​[294]
1 asterisk Cerium58Ce140.12 Praseo­dymium59Pr140.91 Neo­dymium60Nd144.24 Prome­thium61Pm​[145] Sama­rium62Sm150.36 Europ­ium63Eu151.96 Gadolin­ium64Gd157.25 Ter­bium65Tb158.93 Dyspro­sium66Dy162.50 Hol­mium67Ho164.93 Erbium68Er167.26 Thulium69Tm168.93 Ytter­bium70Yb173.05 Lute­tium71Lu174.97  
1 asterisk Thor­ium90Th232.04 Protac­tinium91Pa231.04 Ura­nium92U238.03 Neptu­nium93Np​[237] Pluto­nium94Pu​[244] Ameri­cium95Am​[243] Curium96Cm​[247] Berkel­ium97Bk​[247] Califor­nium98Cf​[251] Einstei­nium99Es​[252] Fer­mium100Fm​[257] Mende­levium101Md​[258] Nobel­ium102No​[259] Lawren­cium103Lr​[266]

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Learning resources




  1. ^ Meija, Juris; et al. (2016). "Atomic weights of the elements 2013 (IUPAC Technical Report)". Pure and Applied Chemistry. 88 (3): 265–91. doi:10.1515/pac-2015-0305.
  2. ^ IUPAC 2016, Table 2, 3 combined; uncertainty removed.


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