Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dimitri Mendeleev (#59)


Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was born on February 8, 1834 near Tobolsk in Siberia. There is no consensus on how many siblings Mendeleev had, but all sources agree that the number was at least eleven. Dimitri's father supported the family by teaching fine arts, politics, and philosophy, but after some time, Mendeleev's father became blind and lost his teaching position. Mendeleev's mother was forced to restart her family's abandoned glass factory, but when he was thirteen, Mendeleev's father died and the glass factory was destroyed in a fire, so Mendeleev was sent to study at the Gymnasium in Tobolsk.

In 1850, Mendeleev's family moved to St. Petersburg and Mendeleev began to attend the Main Pedagogical Institute. After graduation in 1855, Mendeleev contracted tuberculosis and moved to the Crimean Peninsula to recover his health. While away, Mendeleev became the science master of the Simferopol gymnasium No. 1, but returned to St. Petersburg in 1857.

On April 27, 1862, Mendeleev married Feozva Nikitichna Lescheva with whom he was married to until 1882, when he became obsessed with Anna Ivanova Popova. Mendeleev divorced Lescheva and married Popova.

Career in Science

Mendeleev studied several areas in science including the capillarity of liquids and the science behind spectroscopes. In 1864, Mendeleev became a professor at Saint Petersburg Technological Institute and at Saint Petersburg State University. In 1865, Mendeleev became a Doctor of Science and achieved tenure two years later. Mendeleev is widely credited as being the man who helped Saint Petersburg become an internationally recognized center of chemistry. He is also said to have been the man who brought the metric system to Russia.

In 1869, Mendeleev was writing a book on chemistry and, while doing so, organized a table of  the 56 known elements based on atomic mass, weight, and chemical properties. This was the first periodic table ever created. Mendeleev also predicted the existence of three chemicals that would make his table make more sense. These predicted elements did exist as gallium, germanium, and scandium. The periodic table was widely expanded upon as more knowledge came in concerning the elements and their properties.

Mendeleev went on to formulate new state standards for the production of vodka in 1893 while working as the Director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures. He also helped to investigate the properties of petroleum and found the first oil refinery in Russia. He was also nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but was not chosen for the award due to Svante Arrhenius, who discouraged his selection due to Mendeleev's critiques on Arrhenius's work.

The End

Before he died, Mendeleev received the Copley Medal from the Royal Society of London. He also was elected as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. Mendeleev died in 1907 at the age of 72 in Saint Petersburg due to influenza. Mendeleev has been honored by having both a crater on the moon and an element named after him. Mendeleev is on our list because he developed a table that is known world wide and can be found in almost every university and high school science classroom. Also, anyone with a moon crater named after them is pretty awesome.

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