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Dmitri Mendeleev

Mendeleev by Repin

Mendeleev's early years were guided by three key thoughts:

"Everything in the world is science,"
from Bessargin

"Everything in the world is art,"
from Timofei the glass blower.

"Everything in the world is love,"
from Maria his mother.

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was born in Tobolsk, Siberia, on February 7, 1834. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy was the youngest of 14 children (or 11 or 17, depending on the authority) born to Maria Dmitrievna Korniliev and Ivan Pavlovitch Mendeleev.

He revolutionized our understanding of the properties of atoms and created a table that probably adorns every chemistry classroom in the world. After his father went blind and could no longer support the family, Mendeleev’s mother started a glass factory to help make ends meet. But just as Mendeleev was finishing high school, his father died and the glass factory burned down. With most of her other children now out on their own, his mother took her son to St. Petersburg, working tirelessly and successfully to get him into college.

In the late 1860's, Mendeleev began working on the periodic table of the elements. By arranging all of the 63 elements then known by their atomic weights, he managed to organize them into groups possessing similar properties.

While these steps had already been done by de Chancourtois a decade earlier, where a gap existed in his own table, Mendeleev took a professional risk by predicting that a new element would one day be found to fill the gap, and went on to deduce its properties. And he was right. Three of those elements were found during his lifetime: gallium, scandium, and germanium.

The discovery of these elements provided the strongest support for his periodic table, a cornerstone both in chemistry and in our understanding of how the universe is put together (reference). In 1849, with nothing left for the family at Aremziansk, Maria loaded up the family's belongings and headed for Moscow. At this point the family included Maria, Dmitri, and Elizabeth (Dmitri's older sister). In Moscow, they entered a climate of considerable political unrest, which made the university reluctant to admit anyone from outside of Moscow. Mendeleev was rejected.

Maria did not give up, however, and the family headed for St. Petersburg.

Again, they encountered similar turmoil but this time they found a friend of Ivan's working at the Pedagogical Institute, his father's school. With a little persuasion, Dmitri was allowed to take the entrance exams, which he passed, not with honors but well enough to be admitted to the science teacher training program on a full scholarship. He entered the university in the fall of 1850. Maria died shortly after Dmitri's acceptance at St. Petersburg, followed a few short months later by Elizabeth; both died from tuberculosis. Mendeleev was left alone to face his work at the university, but was to later eulogize his mother in his book on Solutions.

"This investigation is dedicated to the memory of a mother by her youngest offspring. Conducting a factory she could educate him only by her own work. She instructed by example, corrected with love, and in order to devote him to science she left Siberia with him, spending thus her last resources and strength."

"When dying she said, 'Refrain from illusions, insist on work and not on words. Patiently search divine and scientific truth.' She understood how often dialectical methods deceive, how much there is still to be learned, and how, with the aid of science without violence, with love but firmness, all superstition, untruth and error are removed, bringing in their stead the safety of undiscovered truth, freedom for further development, general welfare, and inward happiness. Dmitri Mendeleev regards as sacred a mother's dying words."

Mendeleev anticipated Andrews' concept (1869) of the critical temperature of gases. He also investigated the thermal expansion of liquids, and studied the nature and origin of petroleum. He was considered one of the greatest teachers of his time. In 1890 he resigned his professorship and in 1893 became director of the bureau of weights and measures in St. Petersburg, where he remained until his death in 1907.

Dmitri Mendeleev

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Democritus,  Periodic Table Basis,  Patenting,   Element Groups,  Mendeleev,  Element Symbols,  Spiral Models, de Chancourtois,  hydrogen,  Noble Gases,  neon,  Niels Bohr,  Theodore Gray,  Rare Earths, krypton,  Glenn Seaborg,  xenon,  Alexander Arrangement of Elements,  Eric Scerri,  Fernando Dufour,  Other Inventors

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