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An oil painting of a chemist (by Henrika ?antel 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 (cosmochemistry), 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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Space-filling diagram of a fragment of DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions for the development and function of living organisms. All living things contain DNA, with the exception of some viruses with RNA genomes. The main role of DNA in the cell is the long term storage of information. It is often compared to a blueprint, since it contains the instructions to construct other components of the cell, such as proteins and RNA molecules. The DNA segments that carry genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in regulating the expression of genetic information.

DNA is a long polymer of simple units called nucleotides, which are held together by a backbone made of sugars and phosphate groups. This backbone carries four types of molecules called bases and it is the sequence of these four bases that encodes information. The major function of DNA is to encode the sequence of amino acid residues in proteins, using the genetic code. To read the genetic code, cells make a copy of a stretch of DNA in the nucleic acid RNA. These RNA copies can then be used to direct protein synthesis, but they can also be used directly as parts of ribosomes or spliceosomes.

James D. Watson and Francis Crick produced the first accurate model of DNA structure in 1953 in their article The Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids. Watson and Crick proposed the central dogma of molecular biology in 1957, describing how proteins are produced from nucleic DNA. In 1962 Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins jointly received the Nobel Prize.


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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popflock.com Resource: 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.

unit-conversion.info 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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Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff
Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff (1852-1911) was a Dutch physical and organic chemist, and recipient of the inaugural Nobel Prize for Chemistry. His first major findings accounted for the phenomenon of optical activity by assuming that the chemical bonds between carbon atoms and their neighbors were directed towards the corners of a regular tetrahedron. This three-dimensional structure perfectly accounted for the isomers found in nature (stereochemistry). He shares credit for this idea with the French chemist Joseph Le Bel, who independently came up with the same idea. He received the first Nobel Prize for his work on relating the behaviour of solutions to that displayed by gases.

Techniques used by chemists

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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


Hydro­gen1H He­lium2He
2 Lith­ium3Li Beryl­lium4Be Boron5B Carbon6C Nitro­gen7N Oxy­gen8O Fluor­ine9F Neon10Ne
3 So­dium11Na Magne­sium12Mg Alumin­ium13Al Sili­con14Si Phos­phorus15P Sulfur16S Chlor­ine17Cl Argon18Ar
4 Potas­sium19K Cal­cium20Ca Scan­dium21Sc Tita­nium22Ti Vana­dium23V Chrom­ium24Cr Manga­nese25Mn Iron26Fe Cobalt27Co Nickel28Ni Copper29Cu Zinc30Zn Gallium31Ga Germa­nium32Ge Arsenic33As Sele­nium34Se Bromine35Br Kryp­ton36Kr
5 Rubid­ium37Rb Stront­ium38Sr Yttrium39Y Zirco­nium40Zr Nio­bium41Nb Molyb­denum42Mo Tech­netium43Tc​[97] Ruthe­nium44Ru Rho­dium45Rh Pallad­ium46Pd Silver47Ag Cad­mium48Cd Indium49In Tin50Sn Anti­mony51Sb Tellur­ium52Te Iodine53I Xenon54Xe
6 Cae­sium55Cs Ba­rium56Ba Lan­thanum57La 1 asterisk Haf­nium72Hf Tanta­lum73Ta Tung­sten74W Rhe­nium75Re Os­mium76Os Iridium77Ir Plat­inum78Pt Gold79Au Mer­cury80Hg Thallium81Tl Lead82Pb Bis­muth83Bi 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 Cerium58Ce Praseo­dymium59Pr Neo­dymium60Nd Prome­thium61Pm​[145] Sama­rium62Sm Europ­ium63Eu Gadolin­ium64Gd Ter­bium65Tb Dyspro­sium66Dy Hol­mium67Ho Erbium68Er Thulium69Tm Ytter­bium70Yb Lute­tium71Lu  
1 asterisk Thor­ium90Th Protac­tinium91Pa Ura­nium92U 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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  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. ^ Meija, Juris; et al. (2016). "Atomic weights of the elements 2013 (IUPAC Technical Report)". Pure and Applied Chemistry. 88 (3). Table 2, 3 combined; uncertainty removed. doi:10.1515/pac-2015-0305.


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