Chemistry of Living Things
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The Chemistry of Living Things

What I would like you to do first in this lesson is to write down some of the things that you consider (or know) to be characteristic of living things. (There is a place for you to do that in Exercise 1 in your workbook.) Please take a moment to do that. Keep that list or description handy because we will be referring back to it soon.

This is, of course, a chemistry course and as such you will be paying attention to the chemicals and chemical reactions that are involved in biological processes. So we will, of course, be looking at the structure and bonding patterns in a variety of biologically important chemicals. You will find that many of the reactions are either new examples ofr variations of reactions with which you are already familiar. These will be reactions such as oxidation-reduction reactions, commonly referred to as electron transfer reactions. We will look at dehydration reactions and hydrolysis reactions, acid-base reactions, addition, polymerization, and quite a variety of different kinds of things.

Now get out your list of the characteristics of living things and see how it compares with mine. Keep in mind that this is one particular chemist's narrow view of chemically important biological things and should not be considered as the biological requisites of life.

One of the things that is involved in living things is that they must have a physical substance. Now that physical substance provides them with some structure and that physical substance is also involved in growth.
In addition, there must be some kind of an organizational process. That organizational process must allow for and regulate growth, and must also be able to maintain both the living structure and processes that are going on all the time.
In addition, that organization must somehow allow for new generations of this living thing to exist.
Another very important feature of living things is the aspect of energy. Living things must be able to obtain energy. They must be able to store energy and they must also have a variety of ways to use energy.

So keep these things in mind as we go through these lessons on biochemistry. Try to relate what you learn to this overall concept of what's involved in living things.

 

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Clackamas Community College E-mail instructor: Sue Eggling
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