Profile: Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) was born in Verkhnie Aremzyani, Siberia and moved to St. Petersburg at age 16 to enroll in university studies. His father died at age 13, leaving him, his mother, and as many as 11-17 siblings behind (reports vary).

While at university Mendeleev flourished as a chemist and graduated top of his class. He earned his masters in chemistry from the University of St. Petersburg in 1856.

After attending the first international chemistry conference, where standardization of chemistry was a key topic of discussion, Mendeleev first heard Avogadro’s Law and his passion for the science grew.

In 1861, 27 year-old Mendeleev published Organic Chemistry, a 500-page textbook that won him a Domidov Prize. During this time, his concerns for Russian chemistry grew as he saw that the nation was falling behind others, including Germany. In efforts to boost Russian chemical literature and reputation, Mendeleev wrote Organic Chemistry in only 61 days. 

In 1867 at age 33, Mendeleev was granted the Chair of General Chemistr

y at the University of St. Petersburg. During his time there, he published The Principles of Chemistry that was well-received nationally and globally.

In 1869, Mendeleev started working on his periodic table of elements while writing the second volume of Principles of Chemstry. He knew that atomic weight was crucial to organizing the table, so he wrote down all the known elements and their properties on cards and used them to make his table. After his “Eureka!” moment, it took only two weeks for  The Relation between the Properties and Atomic Weights of the Elements. to be published.

Other periodic tables were proposed or in the works at the same time. But Mendeleev’s table left s
paces open for new, unknown elements. Along with this, he organized his table so that certain properties of those unknown elements could be predicted.

In 1905, the British Royal Society awarded the Copley Medal, and in the same year he was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Mendeleev died on February 2nd, 1907 from influenza. Element 101 is named after him.

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