Carbon is an essential element of all organic compounds. Carbon is tetravalent and has the ability to bond with other carbon atoms to form long chains (or) rings. The property of self linkage of carbon atoms is known as catenation.
Carbon also forms covalent bonds with hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulphur and halogens, known as organic compounds.
The branch of chemistry that studies the formation and properties of organic compounds is known as organic chemistry.
In 1780, chemists discovered that organic compounds can be obtained directly or indirectly from plants and animals and from non-living resources such as minerals and rocks.
In 1815 Berzelius, a Swedish chemist suggested a theory which is known as the vital force theory. According to this theory "organic compounds are produced only under the influence of some mysterious force existing in the living organisms”.
But in 1828 Friedrich Wohler, a German chemist rejected the vital force theory. Wohler synthesized an organic compound urea by heating an inorganic compound ammonium cyanate.
In 1845, Kolbe synthesized acetic acid from purely inorganic compound. And in 1856, Berthelot synthesized methane from an inorganic compound.
Organic compounds made of only Hydrogen and Carbon atoms are known as hydrocarbons. All other organic compounds are considered to be derived from hydrocarbons, by replacing one or more hydrogen atoms with atoms of other elements. Thus, organic chemistry is defined as the chemistry of hydrocarbons and their derivatives.