Why Chemistry?

Chemistry is the study of atoms and molecules. In a sense, everything around us is chemical, and chemistry is at the heart of life itself. A great deal of what you read in this chapter will be review. You probably learned about atoms and molecules in middle school Physical Science, and you've probably heard about "proteins" and "carbohydrates" and other molecules, if only because they are so important in the food we eat.

However, since this is a book about Biology, why does it begin with a chapter about Chemistry? In a sense, the purpose of this chapter is to prepare you for everything that follows in the study of biology. To learn about Ecology, you've got to begin by understanding how matter and energy flow through living organisms. That's Chemistry! To understand the structure of the cell, you've got to know the molecules that make up the cell. That's Chemistry! And to understand the genetic code that stands at the heart of every living thing, you've got to learn about molecules like DNA that contain that code, and that's Chemistry, too!

As we've told our own students from time to time, we've never met a Biologist who thought that he or she knew too much Chemistry. Even if some of us think that we find living things a whole lot more interesting than a mixture of cold, dead chemicals in the bottom of a test tube, it's worth remembering that chemicals just like that are what makes life possible. Chemistry is life itself!