Dmitri Mendeleev and Chemistry
Born on February 8 , 1834, to Ivan Pavlovich and Maria Dmitrievna Mendeleev, in Tobolsk in Serbia, Dmitri Mendeleev was one of fourteen children in the family. His father was not only extremely poor but also blind which forced his mother to take on the entire burden of the family on her rather frail shoulders.To make ends meet, she began a glass factory which unfortunately was razed to the ground.
The same year Dmitri Mendeleev’s father too passed away.Mendeleev was a mere boy in high school when this catastrophe struck. Not to give up on her children’s education , his mother took the young boy and walked all the way , to Moscow for his admission at the university. Denied a place in Moscow , they next went to St. Petersburg where Mendeleev joined the Pedagogy course. Within a year his mother passed away. Left an orphan, Dmitri Mendeleev went on to complete his graduation in Math and Science and left for the Crimean Peninsula to teach. A couple of years later he returned once again to St. Petersburg for his Masters Degree.On it’s completion, he was invited to teach at the Technical Institute. He married Feozna Nikitchna Lascheva in the year 1863. It was in the sixties that Dmitri Mendeleev began his great adventure with Chemistry.
Perhaps the greatest distinction Mendeleev ever received was because of his contribution in the field of Chemistry that made an impact in not only in the understanding of the elements in nature but also in related fields like geology, meteorology, hydrodynamics and eventually all sciences related with the components of the entire universe. The Periodic Table formulated by Mendeleev in fact was not only a sign of his genius but also the indication that his perception about science included the dynamics of the physical and the organic world.
It was in the year 1869 that he finally started work on the chapter that dealt with the classification of elements. Having found nothing that he could lay down as the abiding principle for classification , he wrote down all the properties of the 63 elements on cards and then as in a game of patience began placing them in a variety of positions.He was struck by the manner in which the cards he had arranged in the descending order of atomic weight reminded him of the game of solitaire. This triggered the final compilation of the Periodic Table Of Elements.
In his book-The Principles Of Chemistry, Mendeleev arranged all elements known to man on the basis of their atomic mass and also their chemical properties. What was also astounding was the depth of his understanding of the way elements occur and their structure.He left gaps in the periodic table believing that certain elements that had not been discovered would one day be known to man and find its place in the table. As predicted , the three newly elements in the periodic table during his lifetime included gallium ,scandium and germanium. Later boron and silica and aluminium were also added. His concern for finding some semblance of order in the way matter is formed and elements exist sprung from his concern for his students who seemed to find no justification for the relation between elements and their combination.
Dmitri Mendeleev also was one of the only scientists of his times to have communicated with scientists from across the world by painstakingly collecting data and information from all quarters. He in fact spent thirteen years of his life collecting data from other scientists and then formulated his almost perfect Periodic table which stands today as the testimonial of a near perfect find in the field of chemistry. It was path breaking enough to get acknowledged by the Swedish Academy which subsequently brought home the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for Mendeleev . He received also the Davy Medal and the Copley Medal in recognition of his contribution . So significant was Mendeleev’ contribution that till date the periodic table continues to place newly found elements in it and element number 101 was named as Mendelevium, in his honour.
Dmitri Mendeleev was a scientists who believed that science had a place in every walk of life and that it knew no distinction of class or creed. He in fact not only drew large crowds during his lectures but was also known to interact with the common people on board trains explaining to them that there was perfect order in nature and if one discovers the source of this divine order, a lot of human suffering and disquiet could be solved.He in fact saw this order governing relations between man , society and politics.
So loved and respected was he in Russia that even the czar pardoned the charges of bigamy against him. Mendeleev went on to contribute enormously to agricultural chemistry, mineral recovery, oil refining, and also founded the Russian Chemical Society.It is also believed that it was through the efforts of Mendeleev that there was a huge exchange or research and data between European and American scientists for the very first time.
A stickler for perfection , Mendeleev predicted properties of some elements on the basis of their atomic weight and also went on to edit and revise the subsequent editions of the periodic table, reflecting his concern over the missing elements such as radioactive elements rare earths and inert gases.He resigned from his university position in 1890 and was made the Director of the Russian Bureau Of Weights And Measures till his death in 1907.
Influential People: Antoine Lavoisier - David Ricardo - Dmitri Mendeleev - Emile Durkheim - Erik Erikson - Ernest Rutherford - Francisco Pizarro - Friedrich Nietzsche - Guglielmo Marconi - Herman Melville - Howard Carter - Jean Piaget - Johannes Kepler - John Dewey - Mark Antony - Michael Faraday - Niels Bohr - Pierre Curie - Richard Feynman - Robert Browning - Thomas Malthus