Preface
Maybe you are eager to learn the basics of chemistry just because you are genuinely interested in the subject. Chances are, however, that you have experienced difficulties learning and understanding chemistry in the past. I would not be surprised if you tried really hard, possibly more than once, but for one reason or another it never worked out for you. I am sorry if your frustration made you hate chemistry. Mind you, no normal human being is incapable of learning the basics of chemistry; there must have been a reason for your problem with learning it. Give it one more try and maybe you will be surprised how logical, interesting, and fascinating the science of chemistry is. If you want to succeed, here are a few rules for you to adhere to.

- If you dislike chemistry, try your best to believe that this feeling can change.

- Take your time going over the material. Make sure you understand everything before proceeding further.

- Accept the need for memory work. Learning and memorizing chemical information is like learning a foreign language: hard in the beginning but vastly more manageable at the later stages.

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Try to get genuinely interested in chemistry. If you succeed in that, chemistry is guaranteed to pay you back. What interests us and what we really like, we learn easily and quickly, as it just comes naturally.

The Key Question
"I am not going to be a chemist. Why do I have to waste my time studying chemistry?"
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this question asked by high school students and non-chemistry college majors. In my own chemistry major college years, I myself once asked a similar question. Back then, I was struggling with a compulsory advanced mathematical physics course. Growing desperate, I asked my father, who happened to be a PhD physicist, "Why do I have to study all those crazy complex math physics equations if I want to be a chemist, not a mathematician or a physicist?" His immediate answer was short and simple, "Because you want to be an educated scientist and person", he said.

If you want to be an educated person rather than a chemophobe full of irrational fears of chemistry and all chemicals, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with chemistry.

The fear of the unknown is a widely known phenomenon. And, "fear is the mother of violence", as one highly intelligent person once noted. Besides violence, fear stemming from a lack of knowledge may well have other dire consequences. Figure 1 displays photos of some exotic creatures, of which some are harmless to humans and some are deadly. Can you identify the dangerous ones without looking at the caption?
Figure 1. Upper row left to right: Thorny Devil (harmless; source), Cone Snail (deadly; source); Humpback Anglerfish (harmless; source). Bottom row, left to right: Basking Shark (harmless; source), Giant Isopod (harmless; source), Golden Poison Dart Frog (deadly; source).


Knowledge is the only way to recognize and deal with dangerous animals as well as plants, fungi, and bacteria. Likewise, knowledge of chemicals is needed to recognize hazardous ones. Unlike animals, however, chemical substances can seldom be identified by their appearance since many of them are similarly looking white solids or colorless liquids or gases. A chemical compound is generally identified by its structure and/or composition as well as by its name. Figure 2 displays photos of four bottles of substances. Of the four, which ones are safe to handle and which ones are hazardous?
Figure 2. Commercial bottles of (left to right) aspirin (= acetylsalicic acid; source), acetylsalicic acid (= aspirin; source), baking soda (= sodium bicarbonate; source), and sodium bicarbonate (= baking soda; source).


Everyone knows that aspirin is a commonly used over-the-counter drug and baking soda is a safe household product. What can you say about the other two bottles? Would it be safe to open them outside of a fume hood? Are the chemicals in these two bottles poisonous or carcinogenic? Can they spontaneously catch fire? Could they be used in households and, if not, how should they be disposed of in a safe and environmentally friendly manner? A chemist would just laugh at all of these questions because aspirin is a trade name for acetylsalicylic acid and baking soda is a common name for sodium bicarbonate.

It helps to be educated. Alas, there are some dishonest people around. It has always been like that and it always will be. It is your knowledge that is the best protection you can get against those who want to fool you.

Another benefit of being chemistry-educated is that it can help you save money in your everyday life. Suppose you need some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as Advil, Motrin or Ibuprofen. If you know that all three are the same compound (rac-2-(p-isobutylphenyl)propionic acid) with no difference in strength or likelihood of side effects, you will certainly consider getting 100 200-mg tablets of Ibuprofen for only $2 (Walmart) instead of paying $8-10 for the same quantity of Motrin or Advil tablets in the same store, or even more elsewhere.

From this course, you will be able to learn not only about baking soda, aspirin, and ibuprofen. You will also learn what man-made organic polymer fiber is stronger than steel, whether or not brown sugar is more nutritious than regular white sugar, why mixing laundry bleach with vinegar is not a good idea, and many other things that are helpful to know. The course, however, is not just a collection of useful facts and entertaining stories. It is a real chemistry course for the beginners. To learn more, keep reading.
About the Course
This is not an advanced chemistry course by any stretch of the imagination. As the title "Chemistry from Scratch" implies, this course is for the very beginners. If you wish to learn chemistry at a somewhat advanced level, you need to look elsewhere.

The course consists of four modules, named Volumes. Volume 1 familiarizes the reader with key terms and basic concepts of physical sciences and provides an introduction to descriptive chemistry. Volume 2 deals with the structure of atoms, electron configuration, chemical bonding, and other aspects of general chemistry. Volumes 3 and 4 cover selected topics in inorganic and organic chemistry, respectively.

Each of the four Volumes is divided into sections and subsections. At the end of each section there is an exercise subsection. The correct answers and solutions, often with detailed explanations, are provided for most of the exercise questions and problems. Please try your best to solve each question without looking at the answer and carefully read the explanation even if you get the question right.

The text is supplied with links to articles, many video demonstrations of chemical experiments, and visual animations related to the topic. You are profoundly encouraged to watch those videos, which I carefully selected for the course.

Finally, and most importantly, THINK! Focus on understanding and applying the concepts and principles, rather than simply memorizing the material.
About Me
I hold a PhD degree in chemistry from a renowned school and have many years of experience in research, teaching, and tutoring. I have over 200 publications in the open and patent literature with the Hirsch index h = 60 and some prestigious awards to my credit. However, since the specifics of my accomplishments and accolades are irrelevant to the current project, there is no need for me to disclose my identity here. My intent is to remain anonymous to users of this site.