Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev

 

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was born in Tobolsk, Siberia, on January 27, 1834. He was the youngest child of seventeen children. Young Dmitri was educated in the Tobolsk gymnasium. He didn't like the classics, especially Latin. He was interested in mathematics and physics. His abilities in these areas were so evident that his mother, Marya, was determined that he should have the best education possible. When Dmitri was fourteen years old, his father died, and at almost the same time, fire destroyed the glass factory. By this time the older children had left home, and only Dmitri and a sister were living with their mother. Marya decided to seek the help of her wealthy brother in Moscow. The brother at first welcomed them, but when he learned that his nephew wished for a higher education, he refused to help, on the grounds that he himself had not had one, and he saw no need for it. Marya angrily determined to go her own way, and took her children to St. Petersburg. She decided to place Dmitri in the Chief Pedagogical Institute in which his father had been trained. Three months later, his mother died and his sister soon afterwards had tuberculosis, and Dmitri was left alone in St. Petersburg.

He graduated from the Institute in 1855 and received his MA and Ph.D. from the University of St. Petersburg in 1856 and 1865. He was the professor of general chemistry at that university from 1867 to 1890. When Mendeleev began teaching, he felt the need to bring to inorganic chemistry the same degree of order that organic chemistry was then gaining through the theory of molecular structure. Like many other chemists, he was convinced that the answer lay somewhere in the ordering of the atomic weights of the elements. When he arranged them in the sequence of increasing weights, he noted that the chemical properties of the elements were grouped into already familiar families. Occasionally he left a blank space in order to locate the next element in its proper family, and he predicted the properties of the unknown element that would fit the open space. His predictions were confirmed by discoveries between 1875 and 1886 of three elements with these properties. These discoveries established the validity of the periodic table and the fame of its author.

In 1863, Mendeleev married Feozva Leshcheva, mainly at the suggestion of an older sister who felt that he needed a wife. The couple had two children. The marriage was not happy, however, and the arguments over the children were continuous. Eventually a virtual separation was arranged. Mendeleev lived in his quarters in St. Petersburg while his wife and children lived at his country estate of Boblovo. In 1876, Mendeleev went through a serious domestic crisis. At this time he was almost completely separated from his wife. At the home of his sister, he met a seventeen-year-old art student, Anna Ivanovna Popov. He soon feel deeply in love with her. Anna's family did not like his intentions and they made several attempts to separate the pair, and finally they sent Anna to Rome to continue her art studies. Mendeleev soon followed her, saying that if he could not marry her, he would jump into the sea. She agreed to marry him, despite how her family feels. This marriage was more successful than Mendeleev's first marriage. They had four children together.

Mendeleev added to nearly every field that his versatile genius touched and gave to chemistry one of its greatest generalizations. The scientists of the world recognized their loss when he died of pneumonia in St. Petersburg on January 20, 1907.

 

Bibliography

 

Farber, Eduard. Great Chemist. New York: Interscience Publishers, Inc., ©1961

Posin, Daniel Mendeleev. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., ©1948.

 

Stephanie Lee

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