Before the nineteenth century, chemists generally believed that compounds obtained from living organisms were endowed with a vital force that distinguished them from inorganic compounds. According to the concept of vitalism (vital force theory), organic matter was endowed with a "vital force".During the first half of the nineteenth century, some of the first systematic studies of organic compounds were reported. Around 1816 Michel Chevreul started a study of soaps made from various fats and alkalis. He separated the different acids that, in combination with the alkali, produced the soap. Since these were all individual compounds, he demonstrated that it was possible to make a chemical change in various fats (which traditionally come from organic sources), producing new compounds, without "vital force".
In 1828 Friedrich Wöhler produced the organic chemical urea (carbamide), a constituent of urine, from the inorganic ammonium cyanate NH4CNO, in what is now called the Wöhler synthesis. Although Wöhler was always cautious about claiming that he had disproved the theory of vital force, this event has often been thought of as a turning point.
In 1856 William Henry Perkin, while trying to manufacture quinine, accidentally manufactured the organic dye now known as Perkin's mauve. Through its great financial success, this discovery greatly increased interest in organic chemistry.