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Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev Photo

Dmitri Mendeleev (which is at times is spelled Mendeleef as well) was born on 8th February 1834 in Siberia, Russia. He was born into a rather large but well off family. His rise to fame are many but the most noted one is him creating the Periodic Table. Needless to say, but without him, studying chemistry would be a completely different ball game!

Early Life

Dmitri’s father went blind in his early childhood, which is when his mother took the reins of the family in her own hands and revived the glass factory once owned by the family. Although she turned the family fortunes around and ran the glass factory successfully, it was burnt down when Dmitri was just 14. The family then moved to St. Petersburg and it was here that Dmitri’s real education began at the Institute of Pedagogy. This was a huge undertaking for the family when they moved almost 4,000 miles from their place of origin.

Soon after graduating from the Institute of Pedagogy, Dmitri contracted tuberculosis which in those days mostly turned out to be fatal. This made Dmitri move to the Black Sea, in the hopes that a change in weather and surroundings might cure him. His idea worked and not only was he cured of tuberculosis, but he also started teaching at the Simferopol Gymnasium. It was two years later that he returned to St. Petersburg in 1857.


After regaining his health at the Black Sea and his footings in St.Petersburg, there was no stopping Dmitri. He soon established himself as one of the most formidable minds to be working on spectroscopy and the capillary action of liquids. In 1864, he was awarded the position of professor at the Saint Petersburg Technological Institute, soon followed by an appointment as professor at Saint Petersburg State University.

It was around this time that Dmitri’s reputation started to spread beyond Russia and people and institutes around the world started to acknowledge his genius. He was honored with numerous international awards from foreign institutions, such as the Copley Medal by the Royal Society in London. However, in 1890, Mendeleev bowed out of his academic career and took on the commercial sector by focusing on research in petrochemicals. It was during this time that he became Russia’s Director for Weights and Measures and devised a standard for measuring quality in the production methods of vodka.

In 1905, Dmitri gained membership of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The next year significant efforts were made to have him nominated for the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. However, a number of influential individuals were against this idea and thus someone else won the prize. Even in later years, numerous attempts in the same regard were also unsuccessful.

The Periodic Table

During this time in 1863, Dmitri had started working on developing a better system of classification of elements. Until now chemists and scientists used two very basic systems of classifying elements. They either identified elements by their atomic number or by their general properties. In 1869, Dmitri combined these two systems together into a single system. He developed a table, in which elements were displayed in order of their atomic number in horizontal rows, called groups. Elements displayed by their properties (electron valence) were displayed in vertical rows and called periods.

Dmitri left ample space in his table for the discovery of future elements. Although today Dmitri’s Periodic table has been slightly altered, its fundamentals still hold true to the original deeming it one of Dmitri’s most remarkable scientific achievement.

Dmitri Mendeleev died on 2nd February 1907 at the age of 72 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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