This article is about the science of chemistry. For the J-Pop band, see Chemistry (J-pop). ---- Chemistry is the science of the structure, properties, composition, and reactions of chemical elements and compounds.

1 Branches of chemistry

2 Fundamental concepts

3 History of chemistry

4 See also

5 External links and resources

Table of contents

Branches of chemistry

Chemistry typically is divided into several main branches. There are also several main cross-disciplinary and more specialized branches of chemistry.
Organic chemistry

Organic chemistry is the science of the structure, properties, composition, and reactions of organic compounds.

Inorganic chemistry

Inorganic chemistry is the branch of chemistry concerned with the properties and reactions of inorganic compounds. The distinction between organic and inorganic disciplines is not absolute and there is much overlap, most importantly in the sub-discipline of organometallic chemistry.

Physical chemistry

Physical chemistry is the study of the physical basis of chemical systems and processes. Modern chemistry is firmly grounded upon physics, and physical chemistry is the most direct link. Important areas of study include chemical thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, quantum chemistry, statistical mechanics, and spectroscopy.


Biochemistry is the study of the chemicals, chemical reactions and chemical interactions that take place in living organisms.

Analytical chemistry

Analytical chemistry is the analysis of material samples to gain an understanding of their chemical composition and structure.

Minor Branches

Materials science, Polymer chemistry, Environmental chemistry, Pharmacology, Thermochemistry, Nuclear chemistry, Electrochemistry, Computational Chemistry

Fundamental concepts


Main article: Chemical nomenclature.

Nomenclature refers to the system for naming chemical compounds. There are well-defined systems in place for naming chemical species. Organic compounds are named according to the organic nomenclature system. Inorganic compounds are named according to the inorganic nomenclature system.


Main article: Atom.

An atom is the smallest irreducible constituent of a chemical system.


Main article: Chemical element.

An element is a material that consists of atoms with a given number of protons in the nucleus. This number is known as the atomic number of the element. For example, all atoms with 6 protons in their nuclei are atoms of the chemical element carbon, and all atoms with 92 protons in their nuclei are atoms of the element uranium.

The most convenient presentation of the elements is in the periodic table, which groups elements with similar chemical properties together. Lists of the elements by name, by symbol, and by atomic number are also available.


Main article: Chemical compound

A compound is a substance formed from two or more elements, with a fixed ratio determining the composition. For example, water is a compound containing hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of two to one. Compounds are formed and decomposed by chemical reactions.


Main article: Molecule.

A molecule is the smallest indivisible portion of a pure compound that retains a set of unique chemical and physical properties. A molecule consists of two or more atoms bonded together.


Main article: Chemical bond.

A chemical bond is the force which holds together atoms in molecules or crystals. In many simple compounds, valence bond theory and the concept of oxidation number can be used to predict molecular structure and composition. Similarly, theories from classical physics can be used to predict many ionic structures. With more complicated compounds, such as metal complexes, valence bond theory fails and a more thorough understanding based on quantum mechanics is necessary.

States of matter

Main article: Phase (matter).

A phase is a set of states of a macroscopic physical system that have relatively uniform chemical composition and physical properties (i.e. density, crystal structure, refractive index, and so forth.) The most familiar examples of phases are solids, liquids, and gases. Less familiar phases include plasmas, Bose-Einstein condensates and fermionic condensates and the paramagnetic and ferromagnetic phases of magnetic materials.


Main article: Chemical reaction.

Chemical reactions are transformations in the structure of molecules. Such reactions can result in molecules attaching to each other to form larger molecules, molecules breaking apart to form two or more smaller molecules, or rearrangements of atoms within molecules. Chemical reactions usually involve the making or breaking of chemical bonds.

Quantum theory

Main article: Quantum theory.

Quantum theory describes the behavior of matter at short length scales. It is, in principle, possible to describe all chemical systems using this theory, but it is mathematically complex and profoundly non-intuitive. In practice, only the simplest chemical systems may realistically be investigated in purely quantum mechanical terms, and approximations must be made for most practical purposes (e.g. Density functional theory). Hence a detailed understanding of quantum mechanics is not necessary for most chemistry, as the important implications of the theory (principally the orbital approximation) can be understood and applied in simpler terms.


The "laws of chemistry" are really laws of physics applied to chemical systems.

The most fundamental concept in chemistry is that the Law of conservation of mass states that there is no detectable change in the quantity of matter during an ordinary chemical reaction. Modern physics shows that it is actually energy that is conserved, and that energy and mass are related. Conservation of energy leads to the important concepts of equilibrium, thermodynamics, and kinetics.

History of chemistry


Old French: alkemie; Arab al-kimia: the art of transformation.

See also

External links and resources


Further reading

Chang, Raymond. Chemistry. 6th ed. Boston: James M. Smith, 1998. ISBN 0071152210.