Introduction to Chemical Basis of Life

Earlier in the course, we learned that biology is the scientific study of life and living organisms. But what are living organisms made of? We'll answer that question in this activity.

All objects, whether living or nonliving, are made of matter. Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space. In the past, the structure and transformation of matter was mainly of interest to chemists, not biologists. However, the boundary between chemistry and biology has been blurred over the past few decades, as advances in biology have come about through careful study of the molecular and atomic nature of life and living systems. In other words, we have to understand some basic chemistry in order to fully understand important ideas in biology.

This Lesson will introduce some fundamental concepts in chemistry. We'll learn about the major and trace elements of life and the states in which they can exist. We'll also explore basic ideas about how atoms connect and how molecules interact and react.


  • Define the term "element."
  • Identify major elements in living matter.
  • Explain the difference between a major element and a trace element.
  • Identify reactants and products in a chemical reaction.
  • Recognize a simple chemical equation.
Last modified: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 7:49 PM