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Foundations of Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry-one of science's most complex fields-is finally made clear with this richly illustrated introductory course taught by an award-winning professor.
Foundations of Organic Chemistry is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 114.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow. Complex topic well taught I very much enjoyed this course. Dr. Davis thoroughly explores the major topics of organic chemistry. His style is both interesting and easy to understand. Along with the technology he provides footnotes on the discoverers of key milestones in the past. I recommend that anyone taking this course, take his Chemistry course first.
Date published: 2024-07-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Foundations of Organic Chemistry I am 84 years old and require hearing aids to understand speech. The course Foundations of Organic Chemistry has the wrong set of closed captions for each episode. This should be easy to remedy and correct captioning would be very helpful.
Date published: 2024-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Build with Organic Chemistry Don Lincoln points out in his Great Course "Theory of Everything" Lecture 1 (=L1), “no matter your starting point…the conversation would quickly turn to chemistry" and adds: "When you think about it, chemistry is really pretty complicated." Davis' organic chemistry course is about the tools and tricks of the trade. This approach allows demos and depth not found elsewhere. There is a lot of nomenclature and without some prior chemistry/physics this course may be overwhelming. Davis' precision and repetition combine to create deep insight into how to build product. The pace is rapid. A Transcript is useful (though its misspellings – due to AI or poor manual transcription - occur in nearly every lecture. Example: “Kitin" stead of chitin). L1-18: of the course make orbital theory come alive: s and p orbitals become more than solutions for quantum theory. We see their interactions distributing charge dynamically across molecules. Hydrocarbons are discussed starting in L7 with fuel examples, penicillin's interaction (L8) with a bacterial lactam ring; (L9) pi bond behavior and pupil dilation; (L10) saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons; and refrigerants. L11-13 provides clear teachings on substitution, elimination, and addition reactions (a nice example is the hydrogenation of vegetable oils). Personal favorite L16 discusses how modified medications are internally converted to active compounds by the liver (using Tamiflu as a pro-drug example). It also had very nice sections on wine aging/deterioration and saponification (soap making). L17 starts with the Haber-Bosch process converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia (an entry point for the chemistry of NTG), the antibiotic Vancomycin, soybean/corn farming, and synthetic brilliant purple mauveine amino acids. L18: includes multiple fun examples: K nitrate (saltpeter) from S American deserts being replaced by oxidation of Haber's ammonia. Bubbling this product through water produces nitric acid - see Schonbein's exploding apron! Nobel’s ratio of 1 glycerin (from soap making) to 3 nitric acid + sawdust creates dynamite. Next he discusses novocaine; mushroom GABA-induced excessive sedation; and asparatame vs. tomato juice induced methanol production! L19-36: Favorite L19 on alternating carbon double bonds and Pi bond resonance amplifies what we learned in L9 and then leads us to the Diels-Alder Reaction - allowing a simple way to add 2 carbons simultaneously. L22 starts with C1 bonding of a cyclic 6-member carbohydrate sugar (D glucopyranose) and ending with salicyclic acid (aspirin's ultimate internal product). L22 ends with the tough interwoven horseshoe crab chitin - a glucose-derived polymer. L23 states Watson and Crick solved DNA’s structure but in reality, their Tinker-Toy-style DNA model owed itself to a female scientist’s input rather Crick’s brilliance (Great Course: "Particle Physics for Non-Physicists"_Pollock). L24 correctly states known molecules of life are truly devoid of any vital essences but then oddly brings up the meaningless Miller-Urey experiment. TGC’s “What Darwin Didn't Know" by Solomon or “Origins of Life" by Hazen have better approaches. L24: The protein folding, gated channels are well-done, important medical concepts. L25’s Wilkinson rhodium/ligand build is immediately recognizable from its resemblance to blood’s heme structure. His description of the MRI contrast Dotarem; the crab’s two copper ion protein matrix, and the stunning rhizobia bacteria's nitrogenase (with clusters of metals complexed with sulphur) were bonuses. Though I run short of space, the remainder of the course is also extraordinary. COMMENT: This course is probably best suited to people of vision who are starting down the chemistry road to make wonders happen. L15 humbly states, “Some of these reactions are merely clumsy attempts to duplicate (bodily) synthesis”. Yet we physicians owe enormous debt to chemists. Davis happily reminds me of watching my Father's drawings of electrophilic aromatic substitutions (L21). He and coworkers later produced the first effective anti-cancer drug (Adriamycin) and the (still used) diuretic Lasix via mental imagery, paper and pencil and last but not least - slide rules. God bless all of you who are starting organic chemistry.
Date published: 2024-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thanks for creating this course Years ago the Great Courses asked what other courses they should make, I suggested organic chemistry as a way for me to review what I’d learned 20 years ago. This course does not disappoint, not only is it a great review of organic chemistry, it’s clear enough for people who haven’t taken organic chemistry to understand.
Date published: 2023-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I love watching this Organic Chemistry course because of the diagrammatic representations of the molecules, for example. The lecturer is engaging and knowledgeable. Wonderful!
Date published: 2023-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a fantastic course making organic chem alive but insulin deficiency is type 1 dm type 2 insulin resistance please let dr davis know about this small mistake however large to me as a retired physician on a positive side I learned so much from this course it feels like I never took it in college and I did well an A
Date published: 2023-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Each lecture fascinating and rewarding I had tacked an extra organic chemistry course onto an engineering program 40 years ago, so I had a mostly forgotten foundation. I had grudgingly come to the conclusion that organic chem is a necessary foundation for biology and biochem, the last straw was working through Nick Lane's Transformers book and struggling with Kreb's cycle. So I came wanting organic chem to understand other subjects better and it is a means to another end for most, say pre-meds. The course hits all the right notes but manages to work in motivating examples and the history. I was glad that he gave birth, death and situation with the names and we could for a moment go back in time and see key ideas develop through the eyes of the witnesses to history. Understanding the history is a shortcut to a better life, that can be missed if we think marks important: shoot for both. The course is brilliant for managing applications and history in such short time. While streaming courses lack testable objectives, and the materical can was over us, it becomes a challenge to keep up in later lectures. I found I had to choose between going back or forward with the plan to repeat the course to add detail and depth, proficiency later. I chose the latter, I want to stand in front of a vast chart of metabolic processes, contemplate homeostasis, phylogeny, ontogeny... and make another pass closer to proficiency with my own learning objectives. I did find additional materials helpful. There are stick and ball models you buy, apps, online quizzes, I used all of these to at least get the nomenclature enough to know my peroxides from acid anhydrides and animate mechanisms to identify which electron is going where.
Date published: 2023-02-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Ruin Your Interest In Chemistry The Instructor in this course is ultra formal academic, teaching "supplicant students" at best for a working career in the subject, rather than to understand it. And for background I had already done his 60 lecture Great Course "Chemistry and our Universe,' which with effort was understandable. But in this one he gives a constant onslaught of new terms for everything and rapid endless points with little or no explanation requiring more and more to go on. I tried for 12 lectures with the accompanying guidebook and many hours on internet assistance sites to try to follow, but finally realized there is no hope to learn anything from this teaching approach. I am so disappointed, and feel that many who have a sincere interest in learning about organic chemistry will have that ruined by this course. I hope I can recover, and that the Great Courses will get a new instructor to present this subject for other than helpless supplicant career student types, which I know about after 10 years of university studies. I have taken your Great Courses in physics, biology, cosmology, astrophysics, molecular biology, geology, etc., where the instructors can teach advanced subjects for the understanding of fairly intelligent people, so it can be done.
Date published: 2023-01-27
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Every living thing on Earth uses carbon as a basic building block. Yet organic chemistry-the study of carbon-containing matter-is feared by many interested learners. Making this field relevant and graspable is the forte of Professor Davis. Combining years of classroom and lab experience, he's crafted vibrantly illustrated lectures designed for everyone seeking to understand this challenging, fascinating subject.


Ron B. Davis Jr.

I hope this contributes to a lifelong journey exploring and appreciating the rich and beautiful chemistry of life and our world.


Georgetown University
Dr. Ron B. Davis, Jr. is an Associate Teaching Professor of Chemistry at Georgetown University, where he has been teaching introductory organic chemistry laboratories since 2008. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to teaching chemistry at the undergraduate level, Professor Davis spent several years as a pharmaceutical research and development chemist. Professor Davis's research focuses on the fundamental forces governing the interactions of proteins with small organic molecules. His research has been published in such scholarly journals as Proteins and Biochemistry and has been presented at the Annual Symposium of The Protein Society. He also maintains an educational YouTube channel and provides interviews and content to various media outlets, including The Discovery Channel. At The Pennsylvania State University, Professor Davis received a Dalalian Fellowship and the Dan Waugh Teaching Award. He is also a member of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society.

By This Professor

Foundations of Organic Chemistry
Chemistry and Our Universe: How It All Works
Understanding the Periodic Table
Foundations of Organic Chemistry


Why Carbon?

01: Why Carbon?

Start exploring organic chemistry's foundations with a review of the basic science of chemistry (including atomic structure and the periodic table). Then, get an engaging introduction to organic chemistry: its origin, its evolution, its relationship to carbon, and its fascinating applications in everything from food to fuel to medicine.

34 min
Structure of the Atom and Chemical Bonding

02: Structure of the Atom and Chemical Bonding

Take a more detailed look at atomic structure and chemical bonding. What exactly drives an atom's desire to bond? What are the differences between ionic bonds, covalent bonds, and polar covalent bonds? How does the hybridization of atomic orbitals work, and how does it explain the complex geometries of carbon frameworks?

35 min
Drawing Chemical Structures

03: Drawing Chemical Structures

Investigate some of the key methods scientists employ to communicate the right structural information about molecular compounds, including their identity, the ratio of elements that comprise them, and their connectivity. Methods you'll explore include Fischer projections, Newman projections, and stereoimages-all of which help us overcome the challenges of conveying the three-dimensional positions ...

31 min
Drawing Chemical Reactions

04: Drawing Chemical Reactions

You've learned how to depict molecules as they exist at a single point in time. How about as time passes? The answer: much like a cartoonist. Here, learn about this scientific art form, including writing reaction schemes, expanding them into elementary steps, using curved arrows to chart molecular progress, and more.

31 min
Acid-Base Chemistry

05: Acid-Base Chemistry

Focus on the first of several fundamental classes of reactions you'll encounter throughout this course: the proton transfer reaction. You'll learn the three classifications of acids and bases; the Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowry, and Lewis definitions; how chemists predict proton transfer reaction outcomes; two kinds of intramolecular proton transfer reactions; and more.

30 min
Stereochemistry-Molecular Handedness

06: Stereochemistry-Molecular Handedness

Make sense of a crucial concept in organic chemistry: the handedness of molecules, or, as chemists call it, "chirality." Topics include the definition of chiral tetrahedral centers; the creation of stereoisomer sets via inversion of handedness; and intriguing examples of stereoisomers (including enantiomers and double-bonded stereoisomers) and their unique chiral centers.

29 min
Alkanes-The Simplest Hydrocarbons

07: Alkanes-The Simplest Hydrocarbons

Start examining various classes of organic compounds with alkanes, whose hydrocarbons consist entirely of hydrogen and carbon. How can a few simple carbon atoms lead to millions of possible alkane structures? How does structure affect their physical properties? And what curious role did they play in 19th-century whaling?

34 min
Cyclic Alkanes

08: Cyclic Alkanes

Turn now to cyclic alkanes, in which the closing of a loop of carbons forms a whole new class of alkanes with properties all their own. As you learn more about this new class of hydrocarbons, you'll cover the phenomenon of ring strain, the equilibrium between chair conformers, and bicyclic hydrocarbons.

31 min
Alkenes and Alkynes

09: Alkenes and Alkynes

How can pi bonds change the chemistry of hydrocarbons? How did one of the greatest rivalries in chemistry lead to an understanding of trends in stability among regio- and stereoisomers with the same molecular formula? Why do terminal alkynes have such unusual acidity? Professor Davis has the answers to these and other questions.

35 min
Alkyl Halides

10: Alkyl Halides

Explore alkyl halides, hydrocarbons where one or more hydrogen atoms are replaced by a halogen atom. You'll examine how larger halogen atoms decrease the volatility of alkyl halides compared to their alkane counterparts (which radically changed the science of refrigeration). You'll also learn about the reactivity of alkyl halides and the phenomenon of carbocation rearrangements.

33 min
Substitution Reactions

11: Substitution Reactions

Investigate substitution reactions: one of the fundamental mechanisms by which one compound becomes another. The simple molecules you've encountered so far can be altered in targeted ways and once you understand how these reactions work, Professor Davis says you've reached "a palpable threshold in the study of organic chemistry."

32 min
Elimination Reactions

12: Elimination Reactions

Cover the second class of organic reaction: eliminations, the primary method for producing alkenes. As you'll learn, elimination reactions proceed with the production of a byproduct formed by the leaving group; in contrast to substitution reactions, they involve a significant increase in entropy because they make more molecules than they consume.

28 min
Addition Reactions

13: Addition Reactions

Complete your mastery of the trifecta of fundamental organic reactions with a lecture on addition, which adds new groups to unsaturated molecules by sacrificing pi bonds for more stable sigma bonds. You'll explore the basics of addition reactions; the hydrogenation of alkenes and alkines; the ways addition has helped create food additives; and much more.

32 min
Alcohols and Ethers

14: Alcohols and Ethers

In this lecture, consider the important role of oxygen in organic chemistry. Among the topics you'll learn about here: the oxygen atom in sp3 hybridization states; techniques for synthesizing alcohols and ethers; and methods for activating alcohols into more reactive leaving groups (specifically sulfonate esters, phosphinate esters, and tosylates).

34 min
Aldehydes and Ketones

15: Aldehydes and Ketones

Continue exploring oxygen's role in organic chemistry. Here, Professor Davis introduces you to the properties and reactivity of two simple carbonyl compounds: aldehydes and ketones. What do we know about these oxygen-containing compounds and their chemistry? And what's their curious connection with how you feel after a night of heavy drinking?

32 min
Organic Acids and Esters

16: Organic Acids and Esters

Carboxylic acids and esters are two oxygen-containing compounds that possess multiple oxygen atoms with different hybridization states. First, look at two ways to prepare carboxylic acids. Then, examine how Fischer esterification produces esters. Finally, learn about retrosynthetic analysis, a tool that helps organic chemists address synthetic challenges.

35 min
Amines, Imines, and Nitriles

17: Amines, Imines, and Nitriles

Turn now to nitrogen, which has played an important role in the chemistry of life since it began. Learn the chemistry of primary, secondary, and tertiary amines, the simplest of nitrogen-containing compounds. Also, consider imines (containing a pi-bond to nitrogen) and nitriles (where two pi bonds are present), including the simplest and most well-known nitrile: hydrogen cyanide.

30 min
Nitrates, Amino Acids, and Amides

18: Nitrates, Amino Acids, and Amides

Nitroglycerine, dynamite, TNT. What do these explosives have in common? They all contain highly reactive compounds that combine nitrogen and oxygen in organics. Look closely at these and other materials in this in-depth lecture on functional groups containing nitrogen and oxygen that covers everything from nitrate esters to trinitrotoluene to amino acids.

27 min
Conjugation and the Diels-Alder Reaction

19: Conjugation and the Diels-Alder Reaction

Start by examining the phenomenon of conjugation involving multiple, resonating pi bonds and the extra stability that they endow on organic compounds. Then, explore two reactions (including one that resulted in a Nobel Prize) involved in conjugated diene reactivity. Finally, spend some time investigating the relationship between frontier molecular orbits and thermally activated reactions.

31 min
Benzene and Aromatic Compounds

20: Benzene and Aromatic Compounds

Get better acquainted with benzene and a class of compounds known as aromatics, as well as the role aromaticity plays in dictating the acid-base properties of organics. Also, learn about polynuclear aromatics, buckminsterfullerenes, carbon nanotubes, and carbon fibers-all at the forefront of cutting-edge research going on in labs around the world.

29 min
Modifying Benzene-Aromatic Substitution

21: Modifying Benzene-Aromatic Substitution

Build on your understanding of aromatics by investigating a very useful class of reactions: electrophilic aromatic substitution. What's the general mechanism by which these reactions occur? What are some of the many modifications chemists can make to benzene-and how can these already modified benzenes be further modified? What role did this reaction play in the synthesis of one of the most infamo...

30 min
Sugars and Carbohydrates

22: Sugars and Carbohydrates

Start taking a more biologically oriented look at the foundations of organic chemistry by investigating compounds known as carbohydrates. Examine Fischer projections of their two main classes, aldoses and ketoses; learn how cyclic sugars help create disaccharides and polysaccharides used in everything from fruit preserves to body armor; and more.

31 min
DNA and Nucleic Acids

23: DNA and Nucleic Acids

Professor Davis introduces you to ribose, the central component of both RNA and DNA. Starting from individual molecules and motifs, you'll progressively work your way up toward a full model for the structure of the sub-units involved in our genetic code. This lecture is proof of organic chemistry's powerful role in establishing who you are.

30 min
Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins

24: Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins

Proteins make up 20 percent of your body's mass. They mediate almost every chemical reaction in the human body, and they're found in everything from medicine to detergents. Here, make sense of the intricate, beautiful structures and interactions of proteins. Also, take a peek at how they're created in labs for further study.

29 min
Metals in Organic Chemistry

25: Metals in Organic Chemistry

Probe the connections between biology and metals with this lecture on some compounds and reactions in the field of organometallic chemistry. As you'll quickly learn, organometallics have a range of practical applications; one example you'll encounter is Dotarem, an organometallic compound used to help detect tumors in cancer patients.

27 min
Synthetic Polymers

26: Synthetic Polymers

Complete your survey of organic compounds with the largest organic molecules of all: polymers. To better understand this versatile class of compounds, you'll learn about the two general classes of polymers (addition and condensation), how they're designed, and how they've changed the world (one example: vulcanized rubber).

30 min
UV-Visible Spectroscopy

27: UV-Visible Spectroscopy

How do organic chemists actually prove the behavior of molecules and chemical structures you've learned about in the preceding lectures? The answer: spectroscopy, which entails the observation of the interaction between matter and light. In the first of several lectures on the topic, focus specifically on observations made with the UV-visible spectrum.

31 min
Infrared Spectroscopy

28: Infrared Spectroscopy

Transition to the other side of the visible spectrum and discover how infrared spectroscopy provides chemists with different information about structures. In doing so, you'll come to see molecular structures in a new light: not as rigid constructs but as dynamic, vibrating frameworks with bonds that can stretch and bend.

30 min
Measuring Handedness with Polarimetry

29: Measuring Handedness with Polarimetry

Continue your in-depth look at spectroscopy with a focus on the plane polarization of light, and the ability of chiral molecules to rotate plane-polarized light. Who discovered this scientific phenomenon? How is it observed, and with what specific tools? Find out in this lecture that deftly blends science and history.

27 min
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

30: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Visit the radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for insights into how tiny, atom-sized magnets in organic molecules interact with radio waves (and each other) to produce a complex set of magnetic resonances-which are one of the gold-standard identification tools used in modern organic chemistry. Topics include Zeeman splitting, magnetic spin-spin coupling, and multiplets.

29 min
Advanced Spectroscopic Techniques

31: Advanced Spectroscopic Techniques

In this final lecture on spectroscopic techniques, discover the importance of modern NMR spectrometers, which use superconducting magnets and radio receivers to collect spectra with more speed and precision (and in different ways) than other techniques. Also, get an intriguing lesson in the human element-and limitations-involved in spectroscopy.

35 min
Purifying by Recrystallization

32: Purifying by Recrystallization

How are organic materials purified for both study and practical use? One staple technique is recrystallization, which relies on the tendency of organic molecules to form highly ordered crystals. Topics here include the effect of impurities on organic crystalline solids; the phenomenon of incongruent melting; and more.

29 min
Purifying by Distillation

33: Purifying by Distillation

Another purification method is distillation, used for producing potable water, refining oil, and more. First, examine the fundamental laws governing this influential chemical technique. Then, get a closer look at distillation apparatuses commonly used for vaporization and condensation. Finally, learn about azeotropes-mixtures of liquids that are impossible to distill.

32 min
Purifying by Extraction

34: Purifying by Extraction

Discover how solubility makes for an extremely effective tool for isolating non-volatile organic compounds through liquid-liquid and solid-liquid extractions (part of a larger phenomenon known as partitioning). As you delve into these processes, you'll learn one way to better understand extractions: making a perfect cup of tea.

26 min
Purifying by Chromatography

35: Purifying by Chromatography

Chromatography-in which partitioning between stationary and mobile phases leads to predictable rates of movement for compounds-is one of the most powerful separation techniques ever developed. And, when done properly, it allows chemists to isolate almost anything they can imagine. Witness a technique at the core of Professor Davis's laboratory experience.

28 min
The Future of Organic Chemistry

36: The Future of Organic Chemistry

Finish the course by peering into the future of this fascinating field. How can groundbreaking chemical advancements help us stave off global famine-and even help us live on other planets? By exploring questions like these, you'll truly understand how organic chemistry can help us build a better world.

30 min