Inorganic chemistry focuses on the bonding, structure, and reactions of all elements of the periodic table other than carbon. Historically, organic chemistry was considered to be the chemistry of living systems and inorganic chemistry that of non-living systems. However, in 1827 Friedrich Wohler synthesized urea, an organic compound (ie isolated from living systems), entirely from inorganic materials. "This result contradicted the conventional wisdom of the day, which held that only living things could make organic compounds." The old definition became increasingly archaic in the 20th century with the discovery of many metals and inorganic compounds, such as nitric oxide (NO), that are essential to living organisms. Since the time of Wohler organic chemistry has become the chemistry of carbon. Not to say that carbon is not involved in inorganic compounds. In fact a whole field of chemistry called organometallic chemistry is devoted to the study of the interactions of carbon with metals. Please see the American Chemical Society website For more information on inorganic chemistry and careers for inorganic chemists.

Course Information

The focus of this course will be on the bonding theories, spectroscopy, and reactivity of inorganic compounds. The first third of the course will focus on the building blocks for the study of inorganic compounds, including molecular orbital theory, symmetry and group theory, and the structure of solids. This information will form the basis for further study of the structure, physical, and spectroscopic properties of the elements. A significant portion of the course will be devoted to coordination complexes of the first and second-row transition metals. The biological relevance of the compounds we study will be discussed in many cases. In addition to bioinorganic chemistry, topics will include organometallic chemistry, properties of solids, and the chemistry of main group elements.

Meeting Times
 Office Hours
Lecture: Mon/Wed/Fri 1145am-1250pm
Room: Galileo 107
  Mon 6-8pm, Tue 915-1115am, Fri 1-230pm


Inorganic Chemistry by Miessler and Tarr 5th ed. (required)
ISBN-10: 0321811054 • ISBN-13: 9780321811059

Supplemental reading

Inorganic Chemistry, Shriver 5th ed.
Research and Review articles


C- or better in Chem104 and Chem106 (or equivalent)

Additional Course Information


Class Format

The daily class format will consist of (1) a pre-class assignment, (2) an in class activity, and (3) the homework assignments.

The pre-class assignment will vary but may include a reading and or watching a lecture video and the completing a reading log (summary), an online quiz, or selected problems. It will be collected and graded. The pre-assignments and online quizzes will be available from the course website.

The in-class activity will be either student-led group problems or a student-led discussion of research articles. For discussion of research articles each group will elect or be assigned a group leader who will lead the discussion of the article. Groups will be randomized at various times in the semester. You will be evaluated on your participation in class. 

Homework will be assigned on a daily basis. Please check the course Calendar on this website for daily assignments of homework problems from the text. In addition, some material and resources and activities are only available through the website. I reserve the right to collect homework without prior notice.

The importance of working problems cannot be overemphasized!

Class Forum

This website includes a group discussion forum for our course. You are encouraged to participate in the forum the evening before the next class. At a minimum you should participate twice each week on the forum. I will award you 2-pts for each time you participate. This participation assignment should take no more than 5-10 minutes and is designed to promote discussion and understanding of the assigned material. What does it mean to participate?  The post can be a question about the reading assigned for the next class or the preassignment. It can be an answer to someone else's question. It can be a statement of what you think was the main point of the previous class, a question from the previous lecture, or a question from the reading assignment. Each class will begin with a discussion of recent posts if relevant.


It is extremely important that you keep up with the reading and do ALL the homework on a daily basis. I will schedule weekly quizzes to assess your progress with the homework. The quizzes will take about 10 minutes of class time and will be nearly exact replicas of the homework problems.

There will be two one-hour long exams during the semester. Most exam questions will be modeled on homework questions, however, the exams will also test your ability to adapt and apply your understanding and problem-solving skills to new and somewhat unfamiliar situations. Simply repeating facts or mechanically producing solutions to familiar problems will be enough to excel. In fact, there will be some questions/problems on every exam that are a bit different than the ones presented in class or in the textbook.

The comprehensive final exam will be scheduled during final exam week at our allotted period (see final exam schedule). The final will be weighted more towards the last third of the semester but will be all inclusive.

Exam Dates (see calendar for exact dates)

Exam #1 Sept 30th

Exam #2 October 28th

Final Exam (See final exam schedule on SMC website)

Alternate exam arrangements will be considered only for excused absences with prior notification.


Weekly posts to the forum (2 each week, 2 points each, ~12 weeks, 50 points), two exams (150 points each), one final exam (150 points), pre-class assignments (3 points each, ~ 25 total, 75 points), quizzes (75 points). 650 total points.

Final letter grades will be assigned according to the percentage of points that you accumulate during the semester. The approximate ranges for letter grades will be:

Letter Grade
% of total points
          A 100-90
          A- 89-85
          B+ 84-80
          B 79-75
          B- 74-70
          C+ 69-65
          C 64-60
          C- 59-55

Your exact letter grade will be determined by a number of factors, including your performance on the final exam, the consistency of your performance during the term, and class participation.


Students should be able to comprehend and discuss the following topics:

  • Use concepts from quantum theory to explain periodic trends in atomic and chemical properties
  • Predict structure and bonding of simple molecules and using an appropriate model with an understanding of the limitations of the model
  • Identify the symmetry operations and the point group of a molecule
  • Use symmetry and group theory to predict the number of vibrational bands and produce qualitative molecular orbitals diagrams for simple molecules
  • Predict and explain differences in chemical reactivity of inorganic molecules using acid-base concepts
  • Describe the structures and properties of common crystalline and ionic solids
  • Describe the band structures of metals, semiconductors, and insulators and relate these descriptions to the electronic and optical properties
  • Name and idenify simply transition meta complexes
  • Know the common geometries and oxidations states of 1st and 2nd row tranition metals
  • Explain electronic structure and magnetism of transition metal complexes using crystal field theory
  • Use molecular orbital diagrams to explain chemical, magnetic, and spectroscopic properties of transition metal complexes
  • Explain the informational content of select spectrocopic techniques common to analysis of inorganic compounds
  • Use 18e rule to rationalize the stability of inorganic and organometallic complexes
  • Draw reaction mechanisms for common inorganic and organometallic reactions
  • Discuss the key points of an article from the inorganic chemistry primary literature

Additional outcomes will include an increased ability to

  • Solve problems independently and as a member of a team

List of Topics
  • Week 1: Modern atomic theory; Periodic trends (ionization E, e– affinity, atomic radii); Simple bonding models
  • Week 2: Symmetry elements, point group theory
  • Week 3: Matrix representations, character tables; Applications of symmetry; Irreducible representations
  • Week 4: Molecular orbital theory; Diatomic molecules; Heteronuclear diatomics
  • Week 5: MOs for larger molecules
  • Week 6: Acid-base concepts (Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowry, Lewis); Hard-soft acid-base theory; Acid and base strengths
  • Week 7:
Disability Services

Student Disability Services extends reasonable and appropriate accommodations that take into account the context of the course and its essential elements for individuals with qualifying disabilities. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Student Disability Services Office at (925) 631-4358 to set up a confidential appointment to discuss accommodation guidelines and available services. Additional information regarding the services available may be found at the following address on the Saint Mary's

Honesty Policy

Saint Mary’s College expects every member of its community to abide by the Academic Honor Code.  According to the Code, “Academic dishonesty is a serious violation of College policy because, among other things, it undermines the bonds of trust and honesty between members of the community.”  Violations of the Code include but are not limited to acts of plagiarism.  For more information, please consult the Student Handbook at

Students are expected to do their own work on all exams and quizzes, including online quizzes. Violations of this policy will be vigorously prosecuted according to SMC Academic Honesty Procedures.


Creative Commons License
The Inorganic Chemistry Course Material by Jeffrey A. Sigman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.