Are there any books about MO theory that explain the theory to a certain detail but don't rely on a lot of math background or explain the math within the book?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What level of math are you comfortable with? Ultimately, you need to be familiar with differential equations, preferable in spherical (i.e. non-Cartesian) coordinates. Fundamentally, it needs a certain level of math. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster I am familiar with basic calculus. $\endgroup$
    – D.A.
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ my personal opinion is this: to 'get' it properly will need more than calculus. Given the differential equation and the solution, you might be able to differentiate the solution to show that it solves the equation. But, you won't really understand the equation without quantum mechanics, and you won't be able to understand how to get a different solution when the equation changes a little bit. However, just knowing that there is more underneath it all is important - as you learn more, you also learn that there is still more... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ I teach the qualitative parts of MO theory to sophomore biology students using almost no mathematics. It can be done, but I don't have a book that I can point to. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Norris
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ From a very qualitative point of view I think this book by Fleming can teach you a great deal about MO theory and how to use it to predict reactivities and such. It is a good read (I only know the first edition but the second edition might be even better - it certainly has more pages). Fleming uses quite little math. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 10:09

1 Answer 1


I'd suggest the seminal Orbital Interactions in Chemistry by Albright, Burdett and Myung-Hwan Whangbo.

The second edition came out in 2013 and I'm sure there are many copies of the first edition around as well.

They focus a lot on pictoral MO theory - indicating how orbitals of different shapes and symmetry combine.

To truly understand MO theory at a fundamental level, it really helps to study some quantum mechanics (and thus mathematics) but you can grasp a lot from the approach used in this book.


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