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ChemWiki: The Dynamic Chemistry Hypertext > Organic Chemistry > Organic Chemistry With a Biological Emphasis

Organic Chemistry With a Biological Emphasis

A free, open-access organic chemistry textbook in which the main focus is on relevance to biology and medicine

The traditional (and still prevalent) way to teach organic chemistry is to focus on examples that are primarily of interest to students who are planning to become professional organic chemists - that is, to focus on the molecules and reactions of organic synthesis, considering mainly non-aqueous conditions and non-biological reagents. The majority of students studying organic chemistry, however, are doing so because they are majoring in biology, biochemistry, or health sciences. They need to learn about the structure and reactivity of organic compounds because, quite simply, organic chemistry is the chemistry of life. What is most interesting and relevant to these students is the organic chemistry that takes place in the context of a living cell. 

In this online textbook, a unique approach is taken to the study of organic chemistry. To the greatest extent possible, biological molecules and biochemical reactions are used to explain and illustrate the central concepts of organic chemistry. This novel approach is most evident in chapters 9-17, which cover the main organic reaction mechanisms in a biological context. However, earlier chapters on organic structure and spectroscopy also focus as much as possible on examples of interest to students of biology and the health sciences. The chemistry of lab synthesis is not ignored - however, these examples are generally grouped together in subsections and introduced to illustrate parallels between laboratory and biological chemistry.

This is a dynamic textbook, meaning that it will be continuously undergoing revision in response to reader input. Please provide your suggestions and ideas in the 'Talk' pages behind each Module.

Black and white, paperback book versions are available  at the links below. (These links take you to the site of, a POD (print-on-demand) publisher. They have production and shipping facilities at several international sites as well as in the U.S., which hopefully will keep shipping costs reasonable.)

Powerpoint files containing all of the figures in a given chapter are available upon request: contact Tim Soderberg 



Solutions to exercises and problems

Further Reading

Two resources which were very useful in the development of this textbook were The Organic Chemistry of Biological Pathways by John McMurry and Tadhg Begley (Roberts and Company, 2005) and Organic Chemistry of Enzyme-Catalyzed Reactions by Richard Silverman (Academic Press, 2002).  Both are highly recommended to those interested in pursuing more advanced study of biological organic chemistry.


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10:33, 2 May 2015


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