Talk:Inorganic compound

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Somehow this page was upside down - it defined Inorganic compounds as though they were organic (carbon containing)

Checking the history I see that it was me that wrote the original. Must have mentally slid between talking organic and inorganic compounds.

minor grammar fix request[edit]

This line isn't quite right "Inorganic compounds can be formally defined with reference to what they are not organic compounds" but not sure what the preferred correction is. what-->that ? still seems a bit clunky. or should there just be a dash or colon between not and organic?Nrjank (talk) 14:42, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

C-H bond definition for organics[edit]

Is this a hard & fast rule? I can believe that ALL compounds with a C-H bond are organic, but I do not believe that ALL compounds WITHOUT a C-H bond are inorganic. For example, oxalic acid, even uric acid would be under this definition be inorganic! I subscribe to the view given in the inorganic chemistry page that organics are defined as "based on carbon", but the division between the two fields is not absolute. I'd like to get others' views before I edit this page further. Walkerma 00:50, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Agreed: we'll find ourselves in a vortex of "definisionisms" if we try to get too absolute about the boundaries of fields. Fullerenes are another gray area. And the organometallic chemists like to include the metal carbonyls. And on and on. The gray areas are not that overwhelming that they skew the articles. --Smokefoot 19:39, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

I agree as well. Typically the way I was taught was that roughly the deviding line falls along the lines that Organic compounds are compounds based upon carbon, usually containing H, O, N, sometimes S, and the various halides. Whereas inorganic and organometallic chemistry typically focuses on the other atoms especially the metal atoms. --PedroDaGr8 16:49, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Secondly it says "Compositions of matter can be divided.." I think this is horribly worded. It would be better worded as "Chemical compounds can roughly be divided into to major categories." Otherwise it seems as if we are dealing with a more physical system. --PedroDaGr8 16:51, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

The distinction between organic and inorganic is only an historical artifact and there is no hard and fast rule (but certainly requiring C-H bonds for organic compounds is nonsense!) I've updated the article accordingly. The best definition of "inorganic carbon-containing compound" that I have found is "carbon compounds that were considered inorganic before Wohler's time, because they could be obtained from 'inorganic' (e.g., mineral) sources". Of course, one has to be flexible and extrapolate in some cases. Fullerenes are considered inorganic because they an elemental substance (although not really a compound). Derivatives of fullerenes are a gray area. --Itub 08:55, 16 May 2007 (UTC)

Switched inorganic/organic in the "Inorganic Carbon Compounds" section[edit]

The first sentence of this section says: "Many compounds that contain carbon are considered organic; for example, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonates ..." Shouldn't that be "inorganic"? Dcbrc2 (talk) 14:40, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Mineral's are of biological origin[edit]

The definition in the lead is incorrect, because minerals are of biological origin. Please refer to minerals and their definitions. Lowenstam (1981), for example, states the following:[1]

"Organisms are capable of forming a diverse array of minerals, some of which cannot be formed inorganically in the biosphere.":1126

This contradicts the lead to this article: "Traditionally, inorganic compounds are considered to be of a mineral, not biological origin." It is my understanding that an inorganic compound is traditionally one that lacks a carbon molecule, not in functional contact with a living being, and originates from processes other than metabolism.Thompsma (talk) 04:09, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

I suppose it's a matter of context and convention, like how petroleum is considered a mineral resource. To chemists, this traditional distinction is between what you can extract out of plants or animals or their waste products, and between what you can extract out of the earth. --Rifleman 82 (talk) 04:48, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

A recent publication put out by the society for mineralogists emphasizes the importance of biology in the definition, classification, and formation of minerals. It is a matter of peer-reviewed science and experts in the field. Inclusion of these biogenic minerals requires a expanded definition of a mineral as:
"An element or compound, amorphous or crystalline, formed through biogeochemical processes."[2]
This matter was discussed in the mineral talk pages. Microbes play a significant role in the formation, accumulation, and cycling of minerals across the globe.[3][4][5] This does not seem to accord with the widespread scientific notion that inorganic is a mineral - minerals are inorganic and organic.Thompsma (talk) 05:49, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
I think there is evidence they play a role, but I agree with Vsmith on that the role is miniscule at global scales - most minerals do not require living organisms for their formation or development. Materialscientist (talk) 06:05, 19 July 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure if I agree with the recent edits. The minerals people might have opinions of their own, but a handful of articles taken out of context (I see no chemistry journals) should not be used to redefine inorganic chemistry.

The distinction between organic and inorganic compounds is fuzzy, is to a certain extent arbitrary, and is influenced by history and tradition. To many chemists, an inorganic compound may be easy to identify, but is hard to define. Does an inorganic compound have C-H bonds or are derivatives of alkanes? Usually not. But are carbon-containing compounds lacking C-H bonds inorganic? Hard to say. Do inorganic compounds have no relation with life (as your latest version suggests)? Hard to say too. Are the following compounds organic or inorganic?

  • carbon dioxide
  • carbon monoxide
  • cyanide salts
  • phosgene
  • urea
  • carbon disulfide
  • carbon tetrachloride
  • tetranitromethane

To muddy the water, organometallic chemistry is traditionally defined as the chemistry of the metal-carbon bond. Yet metal-carbonyl chemistry is considered organometallic chemistry, whereas metal cyanides are traditionally considered coordination compounds. Some contemporary chemists even consider metal-phosphine chemistry within the realm of organometallic chemistry, despite the lack of a M-C bond. That said, organometallic chemistry and coordination chemistry are traditionally branches of inorganic chemistry.

A further comment on your latest revision: "lattice" might be a poor choice of word. How about "skeleton"? Lattice implies a crystalline structure where you probably intend to mean "backbone".

I'll drop a note at WT:CHEMISTRY, and see if they have anything to comment here. --Rifleman 82 (talk) 05:35, 19 July 2011 (UTC)

A similar question was raised and apparently settled for mineral. See here. Materialscientist (talk) 05:55, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
Even if one considers petroleum and a handful of minor organic-containing minerals, such materials are trace amounts and traditionally they were not considered minerals. This road on organic vs inorganic to unproductive wrangling. My understanding is that many minerals (apparently phosphate rock) are of fossil origin, but again these are not dominant components of the earth's crust such a feldspar etc. The lede begins with the word "Traditionally," which alert readers that the view is widespread but has been revised or at least refined. --Smokefoot (talk) 12:53, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
This is not for us to debate really - it is stated clearly in the peer-reviewed literature that minerals are of biological origin. Hence, the lead sentence is in error. Organic chemistry has traditionally referred to carbon based molecules as the element that unifies the discipline. Of course you can identify carbon based molecules that are inorganic! If the carbon molecule is metabolically integrated into biomass and subsequently oxidized after decomposition it crosses into the inorganic pool. The difference is based on the direct metabolic origins. The current definition is in error and needs to be fixed. Smokefoot - You are in error about the minor influence of biominerals - the latest definition of a mineral in peer-reviewed publications clearly states that they are derived through biogeochemical processes - emphasizing the 'bio', because of the recent studies showing how much of an influence bacteria and other organisms have on the process of generating minerals. Moreover, organisms have had a huge influence on the mineral formation process - the biogeochemical systems and the biomass of microorganisms creates and Earthly mass of minerals.Thompsma (talk) 18:31, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
No you got it wrong: This [topic] is not for us to debate really. The article's lead is not discussing current literature - the key word is "traditionally". Anyway most of the earth was never intergrated into organisms. If you want to argue your view, which you seem to think is mainstream, on the biological processing of most minerals, then I suggest that you make that case in the minerals article. We dont want to dilute or distract or delude students with this kind of fringy view, the sand is sand. Feldspar and granite were not parts of organisms. I confess not to being an current on this biological original of the most of the earth's mass, but the views expressed by Thompsma smack of fringe science, which is often accompanied by a zealotry that is unhelpful to readers. These kinds of debates, which degenerate into semantic, dilute articles with off-topic turf-battles and divert conventional readers from understanding what is taught (as I have done for many years).--Smokefoot (talk) 18:46, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Okay...if you want to go to traditional distinctions between organic and inorganic - then we can turn to chemistry. Look at every textbook on organic chemistry and you will note that the unifying definition always refers to carbon. Every organic chemistry textbook opens with the same story about the Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman in 1770 who made the chemical distinction of compounds in living organisms with subsequent reference to a vital force theory. This was subsequently tossed and William Brande wrote in 1848, "No definite line can be drawn between organic and inorganic chemistry...Any distinctions...must for the present be merely considered as matters of practical convenience calcluated to further the progress of students." You can read about this in any organic text, for example:"The only distinguising characteristic of organic chemicals is that all contain the element carbon."[1]
I think you need to check yourself, because I am an experienced wikipedia science writer and am definitely not referring to fringe or marginal science - the articles I posted above are peer-reviewed in world renowned journals - such as Science, Nature, and other mineralogy journals. For example:
You should put your ego and rants aside. Find me a single peer-reviewed or textbook definition that defines an inorganic substance solely on the basis as a mineral and then we can start to debate this, but the Skinner definition of a mineral in 2005Skinner, H. C. W. (2005). "Biominerals". Mineralogical Magazine 69 (5): 621–641. doi:10.1180/0026461056950275.  is of recent origin and he defines a mineral as: "An element or compound, amorphous or crystalline, formed through 'biogeochemical' processes. The addition of `bio' reflects a greater appreciation, although an incomplete understanding, of the processes of mineral formation by living forms. Further, the definition acknowledges that some biominerals are barely crystalline but avoids a discussion of `amorphous'."Thompsma (talk) 19:05, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
My reference to the debatable issues is a simple recognition that you can't just make stuff up - that is not debatable. The information I provided comes from reliable source material. What is published in reliable sources - if cited and referenced properly - is not up for debate. I have posted things in here that I disagree with - but it is not for me to debate, because my thoughts on the matter are not peer-reviewed. It is our job to report on the science as it is published.Thompsma (talk) 19:09, 20 July 2011 (UTC)


First, we don't throw out traditional definitions simply because there exists some debate in current or recent literature - as this seems the thrust of the suggested changes. There has been some similar changes made on the mineral article - redefining based on recent publications. I'm not very comfortable with those changes, but haven't yet read the refs provided - I'm out in the boonies with no easy access to the papers cited.
It seems some with biology backgrounds both here and on the mineral article want to redefine things to emphasize their viewpoint. All that said, of course organisms are involved in "making minerals" and other inorganic compounds, but the vast majority of earth minerals have never been aquainted with an organism. So ... mebe some WP:Undue weight at play literally - considering the vast bulk of crustal and mantle minerals.
... it is stated clearly in the peer-reviewed literature that minerals are of biological origin. Yes, some/many minerals are of bio origin, but the vast majority aren't. The definition in the lead is incorrect, because minerals are of biological origin. is a misstatement - no - some minerals are of bio origin. Vsmith (talk) 19:42, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Where did this traditional definition come from?? Show the citation. I'm not referring to any debate in the current literature - that minerals can be of biological origin goes back over a hundred years. Of course most minerals are not formed by organisms - but many are and so this cannot serve as a distinction for inorganic, plus there is no citation given for that definition 'traditional' or not. I agree with you that some minerals are of a biological origin. Hence, the lead statement that says: "inorganic compounds are considered to be of a mineral, not biological origin" is false for the same reason. Do we write: "inorganic compounds are considered to be of a mineral, not biological origin, but only those minerals that are not of biological origin." You get stuck in a perpetual tautological loop!! Beyond the organic chemistry definition - where you can find the 'traditional' reference material on this subject (still at a loss where the mineral aspect came into this), you can turn to ecology - which is my area of expertise. When I made the changes to the lead I was using a combination of organic chemistry and ecological understanding of carbon pools and cycles. For example, the following article[2] published in Nature gives perspective on how ecologists view this:
"Eukaryotic, photo-autotrophic producers generally cannot acquire carbon or nutrients from organic sources, but must transform inorganic carbon, such as CO2 , and inorganic nutrients, such as NO3, into the organic materials needed for growth and reproduction."
Hence - we can conclude the following:
  • Many different kinds of minerals are of biological origin and cannot serve as the demarcation point that defines an inorganic substance.
  • Organic chemists refer to any molecule that contains carbon as an organic molecule.
  • Ecologists refer to carbon pools and exchanges with organic supplies bound in molecules of direct metabolic synthesis and inororganic supplies in molecules that have not been synthesized by organisms, but exist in states that have been oxidized into the environment, such as CO2 or NO3.Thompsma (talk) 19:57, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Ecologists can have whatever opinion they want, and that's fine. But it is not their place to define inorganic chemistry. The divisions in chemistry are determined through custom and usage. It is not the custom of chemists to define any compound containing carbon as an organic compound. Is carbon dioxide an organic compound? Is tetracarbonylnickel(0) inorganic? --Rifleman 82 (talk) 20:07, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

What kind of nonsensensical statement is that?? This isn't a battle between the sciences - ecologists vs. chemists. Science is a unifying philosophy and some of the journals I have referred too are mineralogy or geological based. Moreover, I suggest you do a bit of research into organic chemistry - flip through any textbook in google on organic chemistry (last time I checked, organic chemists are chemists) and you will note that they all state that any molecule containing carbon falls under the purview of organic chemistry. Once again - we have people in here spouting off opinions drafted from the top of your head. Please provide reliable sources to defend your claims.Thompsma (talk) 20:24, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm shocked at your statement Rifleman 82 - you seem to have a lot of background in chemistry. I've taken a few organic chemistry courses in my time - I admit that I'm not a chemist. However, the following textbooks on organic chemistry all state that any molecule that contains carbon is an organic:
In fact, I can't locate a single organic chemistry textbook that states otherwise. For someone who is supposedly familiar with inorganic and organic chemistry you are not in line with your professional colleagues that are publishing in books and journals and stating an alternative stance to your own. How odd it is to find a scientist in one field who wishes to discredit scientists in another area!! That goes against the very nature and philosophy of what science is supposed to be. Very unscientific of you.Thompsma (talk) 21:00, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
thanks for the quick response. Apologies for misinterpreting/garbeling some statements. Let me try to edit this thing and then you take a look. About #2 (defining organic vs inorganic): Whew!, I was afraid that you wanted to re-open that fetid can of worms. One can find a source to support many views.--Smokefoot (talk) 00:00, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

Proposed change to lead[edit]

I propose that the link to

Main article: Inorganic chemistry

- be removed. Organic or inorganic chemistry does not have prime dominion over the definition of what constitutes an inorganic compound - that would be ludicrous. This is wikipedia and as such it must encompass an interdisciplinary approach. If I'm writing in an article on nutrient cycle, for example, and want to put a link to an inorganic compound - it does not make sense to have separate pages for the chemists version of what this means and for the biologists version of what this means. It goes under a single heading and I think we are smart enough to deal with the kinds of challenges that this poses.

Most biology textbooks refer to inorganic compounds in the following way: "An inorganic compound is oxidized by lithotrophs to serve as electron donor for respiration and biosynthesis, whereas an organic molecule serves these functions in organotrophs."[7] That is a very specific example - but I included it because it refers to the oxidation process. Other biology texts state something like this: "An inorganic compound is a compound that does not have both carbon and hydrogen atoms bonded together within the molecule."[8] Every organic chemistry textbook (that I can locate) states that any molecule containing carbon is an organic compound. I am unable to find a single reference and nobody has been able to provide a reference to a reliable source that would support the current claim that an inorganic molecule is of mineral origin. Moreover, this creates a contradiction with the literature stemming back for over a hundred years, because there are many kinds of minerals that are of biological origin (e.g., H. A., Lowenstam (1981). "Minerals formed by organisms". Science 211 (4487): 1126–1131. doi:10.1126/science.7008198. JSTOR 1685216. PMID 7008198. ).

Therefore, I propose the following:

Inorganic compounds are molecules that lack carbon and hydrogen atoms that are otherwise bonded in the molecular structure of organic compounds of biological origin. Organic chemists traditionally refer to any molecule containing carbon as an organic compound. However, biologists may distinguish organic from inorganic compounds in a different way when referring to pools of organic matter that have been metabolically incorporated in living and decomposing tissues versus the pools of inorganic matter that have been oxidized into the open environment, such as atmospheric CO2.

I am completely open to debate on this so long as people provide sources to support their claims. The published literature shows that the distinction based on a mineral has to go.Thompsma (talk) 22:07, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Now I am lost - here is what I think we are arguing about?
1) Thompsma's claim that most minerals are biologically derived?
2) The definition of an organic and inorganic compounds.
With regards to #1, the key or at least strongly representative reference is a Science paper by Lowenstein, the abstract of which states "Organisms are capable of forming a diverse array of minerals, some of which cannot be formed inorganically in the biosphere... They have been formed in ever-increasing amounts during the last 600 million years and have radically altered the character of the biosphere." My responses are (i) "that's interesting" (I like the area of geomicrobiology, having initiated Alfred E. Treibs and written most of Organic geochemistry), (ii) the percentage of the inorganic material on this 1024kg planet that was processed by living organisms is probably relatively small, and (iii) indeed "Traditionally, inorganic compounds are considered to be of a mineral origin" Having said that, I think that it would be highly appropriate to point out in the article that many minerals are actually of biological origin. Sure, why not.
With regards to #2, we have beaten the dead horse on organic vs inorganic so often - it comes up with great heat and little enlightenment about every few months. Boring and unproductive semantics to my mind. Usually these discussions are intiated by someone who has just realized that carbon monoxide or oxalic acid does not fit tidily into one theme or another.
"1) Thompsma's claim that most minerals are biologically derived?" - No...I never made this claim. Please read what I post carefully. I stated that minerals can be biologically derived and provided a few citations that support this. I NEVER stated that most minerals are biologically derived - there was a typo earlier where I stated that minerals are of biological origin and should have stated that some minerals are of biological origin. I know full well that the Earth mainly consists of minerals of geological origin. The problem is that the lead in this article states that an inorganic compound is one of mineral not biological origin - which is a false tautology - because some minerals are of biological origin. In response to your response to #2 - this is why I refer people to published literature that provides answers.Thompsma (talk) 23:32, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
thanks for the quick response. Apologies for misinterpreting/garbeling some statements. Let me try to edit this thing and then you take a look. About #2 (defining organic vs inorganic): Whew!, I was afraid that you wanted to re-open that fetid can of worms. One can find a source to support many views.--Smokefoot (talk) 00:01, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks Smokefoot! However, if this page is going to be of service we will have to define inorganic vs organic and it doesn't seem to me to be the insurmountable challenge that you've implied. We can (as always) use history as our guide.Thompsma (talk) 16:25, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Simplifying some parts and expanding on others:
Inorganic compounds are molecules that lack carbon and hydrogen atoms and are created by geological rather than biological systems. In contrast, carbohydrates are the primary components that are added into the molecular structure of organic compounds of biological origin. Organic chemists traditionally refer to any molecule containing carbon as an organic compound. Hence, inorganic chemistry deals with molecules lacking the carbon atom. However, biologists may distinguish organic from inorganic compounds in a different way that does not hinge on the presence of a carbon atom. Pools of organic matter, for example, that have been metabolically incorporated into living tissues persist in decomposing tissues, but as molecules become oxidized into the open environment, such as atmospheric CO2, this creates a separate pool of inorganic compounds. The distinction between inorganic and organic compounds is not always clear when dealing with open and closed systems, because everything is ultimately connected to everything else on the planet. Some scientists, for example, view the open environment (i.e., the ecosphere) as an extension of life and from this perspective may consider atmospheric CO2 as an organic compound. Hence, the definition for an inorganic versus an organic compound in an multidisciplinary context spans the division between living and non-living matter and remains open to debate according to the way that one views the world.
I realize that the approach I have taken here may be controversial - it may be crossing the line of original research, but it summarizes the various ways that inorganic vs. organic compounds are referred too in the literature to give a multidisciplinary perspective.Thompsma (talk) 18:40, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Just after doing this I noticed your changes to the lead Smokefoot. I like some of what you have done - but have a few comments/questions.
  • Why the specific focus on "The fields of organometallic chemistry[4] and bioinorganic chemistry[5]"?
  • I vote to just get rid of any mention of minerals - it is a separate issue and it makes it more confusing.
  • I don't like and I disagree with this sentence: "Over the past century, the classification of inorganic vs organic compounds has become less important to scientists,[2] primarily because the majority of known compounds are synthetic and not of natural origin.[3]" - ah...I think that scientists are very interested in compounds that are synthesized organically and 'natural' has even more complex pitfalls than distinguishing organic from inorganic.
  • Can we integrate our two approaches? For example,
Inorganic compounds are of inanimate, not biological origin. Inorganic compounds lack carbon and hydrogen atoms and are synthesized by the agency of geological systems. In contrast, the synthesis of organic compounds in biological systems incorporates carbohydrates into the molecular structure. Organic chemists traditionally refer to any molecule containing carbon as an organic compound and by default this means that inorganic chemistry deals with molecules lacking carbon.[6] However, biologists may distinguish organic from inorganic compounds in a different way that does not hinge on the presence of a carbon atom. Pools of organic matter, for example, that have been metabolically incorporated into living tissues persist in decomposing tissues, but as molecules become oxidized into the open environment, such as atmospheric CO2, this creates a separate pool of inorganic compounds. The distinction between inorganic and organic compounds is not always clear when dealing with open and closed systems, because everything is ultimately connected to everything else on the planet. Some scientists, for example, view the open environment (i.e., the ecosphere) as an extension of life and from this perspective may consider atmospheric CO2 as an organic compound. IUPAC, an agency widely recognized for defining chemical terms, does not offer definitions of inorganic or organic. Hence, the definition for an inorganic versus an organic compound in a multidisciplinary context spans the division between living (or animate) and non-living (or inanimate) matter and remains open to debate according to the way that one views the world.

Thompsma (talk) 19:09, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

Seems we may be going at this somewhat "bass ackwards". The new lead has 7 refs whereas the remainder of the article has only two. Seems the article should be developed coherently (it's currently somewhat a haphazard mess) and then write a lead that summarizes the article and leaves the referencing to the body. But ... don't look at me :)
Now to the discussion at hand. I'm quite OK with shifting the traditional "mineral" to traditional "inanimate" - that works and solves part of the current discussion confusion. However the proposed (just above) Inorganic compounds lack carbon and hydrogen atoms and are synthesized by the agency of geological systems. seems lacking a bit or maybe a couple bits.

  • First it implies that "geological systems" are required for their "synthesis" thus ignoring the multitudes of inorganic compounds synthesised in various labs with no known geologic occurrence.
  • Secondly the "lack carbon and hydrogen atoms": for starters the carbonate minerals jump at me. Yes, much calcite and aragonite owe their origin to organisms building skeletons, shells, etc. ... but purely evaporitic carbonates exist, carbonate minerals are formed by hydrothermal and even magmatic systems (see carbonatite for example) and the reactions in cave development involve CO2, HCO3- and CaCO3. Are these all organic compounds/reactions just because H and C are present/involved? Don't think so.

Further, Some...may consider atmospheric CO2 as an organic compound -- who are these ecospherians? :) And what about good old water? As water is involved in bio reactions (or ecospheric), does that mean all water-bearing (hydrous) compounds or hydroxide compounds are organic? Vsmith (talk) 03:50, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

I agree with your first synopsis that the body of the article needs to be developed. I guess that's where I should start. Changing from mineral to inanimate is agreed as well - abiogenic is another term that could be used. I agree with your concerns about inorganic synthesis in labs - but it could also be argued that ultimately the resources used to synthesize the compounds stem from geological systems - by mining or other extraction technology. Your concerns about carbon and hydrogen atoms are noted - but defining an organic compound as one that has carbon and hydrogen is a very common definition in textbooks and published papers in organic chemistry: "Organic compounds contain carbon and hydrogen by definition and usually other elements (eg nitrogen and oxygen) as well. (CO2 is not an organic compound because it has no hydrogen). Hydrocarbons are organic".[9]
I guess you could argue that all organic compounds must have carbon and hydrogen, but not every compound with carbon and hydrogen is an organic. Most biologists would refer to the "oxidation of organic molecules to inorganic carbon...catalysed by heterotrophs"[10] - which is where you can draw the line between organic and inorganic carbon pools. However, some classical definitions in organic chemistry simply define any compound with carbon as an organic: "Organic chemistry is, simply put, the study of the compounds of one element, carbon (atomic number 6)."[11]
Water is traditionally considered an inorganic in the same way that most would suggest that CO2 is an inorganic compound, whereas methane CH4 is an organic. This article[12] in Marine & Petroleum Geology on 'Gaia's breath' is an example of how one might think of CO2 as an organic - this article[13] also discusses that viewpoint (I can send the pdf if you would like). The end of page 39 in this book[14] explains where I was going with CO2 as an organic according to some definitions I have crossed. The author goes on to state: "It seems that a useful condition to specify an "organic" compound is the annex to the given definition that there must be at least one C-H bonding in the molecule."
The confusion goes back to the history of organic (living - etymology stems from organs or organized living beings) versus inorganic (non-living) matter. It was simpler to make this distinction when a 'vital force' was attached to living molecules deemed organic. This is seen in the way that Stanley Miller distinguished these terms in his classical experiments on the origins of life creating amino acids from inorganics.[15] The legacy of the vital force in the distinction of organic vs. inorganic still exists in the way that a Gain researcher would see the whole planet as one organic entity (e.g., [16]). I'm not saying I support this view - but that it exists in the literature and may need to be considered or explained in the article. The following quote is another example of this perspective: "If we suppose that, inevitably to some degree, just these elements formed the primaeval soup of mixed organic and inorganic character..."[17]. This stems from "an awareness of the continuity of organic and inorganic systems."[18]. Thanks for your feedback - hope my comments are helpful as well.Thompsma (talk) 08:32, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
the above is headed toward some sort of original thought or synthesis. We have been through this organic-vs-inorganic thing many times in Wikipedia. The discussion ends up sounding like beer talk between grad students or wanna-be academics. There are more productive ventures on Wikipedia where we can report on facts vs whispy thoughts of how an area is defined. The article achieves the basics: (i) cites the main texts in the field and (ii) gives a few perspectives on classes of compounds. Inorganic chemists just don't spend much time on this kind of handwringing and, as pointed out in the current article, our monographs and textbooks dont either. To write something otherwise would misrepresent the field.--Smokefoot (talk) 12:50, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback Smokefoot, but complaining about it doesn't help and wastes everyone's time. I disagree with your synopsis - because we have come to some agreement. The confusion always rests on the metaphor of language. Moreover, this is not a textbook for inorganic chemists - it is an encyclopedia where an multidisciplinary perspective is necessary - inorganic chemists may not spend much time on this stuff, but biologists, philosophers, and other scientists do concern themselves with these sorts of problems. I'm sorry if you don't like the way that language works in science, but this is the way it is. Finding the semantic boundaries and where they have been crossed helps to organize our understanding.
The main problem stems from organic chemistry texts that define organic compounds on the basis of carbon. For example - this recent textbook[19] states - "Gradually, organic chemistry came to be defined as the chemistry of substances containing carbon, the definition we currently recognize and use." I don't agree with this definition - but it crops up in so many organic chemistry textbooks that it is hard to ignore, but the carbon criteria is way too general. Chapter 12 in this ecology book[20] gives a good introductory description of how researchers distinguish organic from inorganic carbon. This highlights why it is important to give a concrete answer to this problem - there are a lot of researchers, methods, and publications that examine the fraction of organic to inorganic carbon. However, this would be very confusing to an undergrad (like I was) reading a textbook on organic chemistry saying that an organic compound is one that has carbon. Instead of continuing with these circular arguments - I will spend a bit of time going through the body of this article with appropriate citations to flush out a definition that we can all agree upon.Thompsma (talk) 17:01, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
When the world "organic" is used in conjuction with chemistry or compounds, it means "containing carbon." However, when used in conjuction with minerals, it can be a synonym for "of biological origin." I propose we simply add that bit as a last paragraph to the lede (noting the slight difference in the way geologists use the term) and leave it at that. We often have to do this. For example, people working with the kinetic theory of gases use the world "molecule" a bit differently than everybody else, and in their terms, even monoatomic gases are composed of one-atom molecules. So we note that, and also note that everybody ELSE requires two or more atoms. That's that. SBHarris 02:37, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Came here after seeking to add an inorganic sentence or two to polycyclic compound, and came here to be sure to be consistent with related WP definitions elsewhere. And, Ithen became the one adding the tags to the article, see below. Note, I have great respect for the folks in the discussion here, so forgive the pointedness of the tags, and that talk entry. Pointedness is to push buttons, and stimulate actual edits. As for the foregoing discussion about the lede, I have had only time to skim. But as I said, anything that is adv textbook-based or secondary source-based—even listing the categories that appear in the latest IUPAC Red Book, giving definitions from several advanced inorganic books out there, using the Red Book category list to give relevant sub-definitions (incl, e.g., binary compounds, coordination compounds, organometallics, etc.)—anything like this would be a solid step forward here. That and fully reconciling this content with the IOchem article itself.
My one further content comment: metal hydrides. However the final source-based definition is generated, it has to be modern enough to not exclude metal hydrides. Cheers. Le Prof Leprof 7272 (talk) 20:39, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Article needs expert attention[edit]

And so, because the lede and definitions portions of this article remain unsettled since the discussion taking place in 2011, I have added a "dispute" tag and an "expert needed" tag. The aim is to resolve the fact that the current definitions and content rely on limited sources and so may not be accurate, scholarly, or encyclopedic. The work appearing above, in the preceding Talk sections, is far better than the current simplistic, and outdated definition-as-negation and geologic discussion that opens the current article. Finally, the analysis of texts that do and do not provide definitions is WP:OR (and failed OR at that, because those texts do contain inherent definitions, even if not easily gleaned). Help, Inorg chemists! Le PRof Leprof 7272 (talk) 19:32, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Minimal first changes in the right direction[edit]

Adding an image of the periodic table, and adding a new opening sentence to the lede, and integrating it, so that it is consistent with the IOChem article and with real chemical practice. All I can do today. Le Prof Leprof 7272 (talk) 20:44, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Here is a translation of the German article on the same subject, for review: [21] Le Prof Leprof 7272 (talk) 20:49, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Periodic table obstructs[edit]

The bulky periodic table has got to go! It takes up way too much space for what it contributes (showing that most elements aren't carbon), and distracts from the main message by its size. A link would suffice.

I noticed a periodic table of a more suitable style at Compounds_of_carbon#Organic_compounds. Unfortunately, that one illustrates the opposite concept -- namely organic compounds.

89.217.9.26 (talk) 21:11, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

Confusing article[edit]

The article is incoherent scraps. While I understand there are several fuzzy overlapping definitions, it would be useful if they were crisply presented and contrasted -- and cleaned up a bit in the process! Unfortunately it seems that the needed synthesis does not appear as a coherent presentation out in the literature, so we get this hodgepodge instead.

In general, I liked the discussion of organic versus inorganic compounds (of carbon) in the Compounds of carbon article better than the one here. Since (evidently) all sources agree that an organic compound must contain carbon, the discussion in the carbon article has the potential to provide a complete answer to the question. 89.217.9.26 (talk) 21:10, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

I agree with LeProf above, the German Wikipedia article he cites is a good model. It has a section entitled "Anorganische_Stoffe" -- see http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anorganische_Chemie#Anorganische_Stoffe -- that simply lists the exceptions (inorganic carbon compounds) by group. It draws a clear distinction between the historical motivation and the current meaning. (Perhaps following a German tradition of officially erasing old language, but in chemistry this makes sense.) 89.217.19.149 (talk) 08:41, 4 November 2014 (UTC)

Orphan references[edit]

  1. ^ H. A., Lowenstam (1981). "Minerals formed by organisms.". Science 211 (4487): 1126–1131. 
  2. ^ Skinner, H. C. W. "Biominerals". Mineralogical Magazine 69 (5): 621–641. 
  3. ^ Newman, D. K.; Banfield, J. F. "Geomicrobiology: How Molecular-Scale Interactions Underpin Biogeochemical Systems". Science 296 (5570): 1071–1077. doi:10.1126/science.1010716. 
  4. ^ Warren, L. A.; Kauffman, M. E. (2003). "Microbial geoengineers". Science 299 (5609): 1027–1029. doi:10.1126/science.1072076. 
  5. ^ González-Muñoz, M. T.; Rodriguez-Navarro, C.; Martínez-Ruiz, F.; Arias, J. M.; Merroun, M. L.; Rodriguez-Gallego, M. "Bacterial biomineralization: new insights from Myxococcus-induced mineral precipitation.". Geological Society, London, Special Publications 336 (1): 31–50. doi:10.1144/​SP336.3 Check |doi= value (help). 
  6. ^ Major textbooks on inorganic chemistry, however, decline to define inorganic compounds: Holleman, A. F.; Wiberg, E. "Inorganic Chemistry" Academic Press: San Diego, 2001. ISBN 0-12-352651-5; Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1997). Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0080379419. , Cotton, F. Albert; Wilkinson, Geoffrey (1988), Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (5th ed.), New York: Wiley-Interscience, ISBN 0-471-84997-9