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Published: Kem. Ind. 56 (4) (2007) 217–226
Paper reference number: KUI-01/2007
Paper type: Professional paper / History of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
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The Life and Activities of Dmitriy Ivanovich Mendeleyev – Centenary of his Death

I. Esih+ and V. Vaščić


The life and activities of D. I. Mendeleyev are presented primarily in view of his role in the progress of chemistry. Born in Tobolsk in 1834 to a numerous and poor family, burdened by the family’s bad luck and his ill health, he graduated natural sciences in 1855 at St. Petersburg and was awarded a gold medal for exceptional success. In 1855/56 he was teacher at a secondary school in Odessa. He obtained his MSc degree in 1856 in St. Petersburg where he was appointed lecturer in 1857. He was guest scientist 1859-1861 at the University in Heidelberg where he investigated the behavior of gases under various pressures and temperatures and discovered the critical temperature of liquefaction. He achieved his PhD degree in 1865 in St. Petersburg with a thesis on ethanol/water mixtures. Therein he had proven the existence of alcohol hydrates. His work later enabled the elaboration of modern conceptions on solvate formation in solutions. In 1865 he was elected professor at the University in St. Petersburg where he worked until 1890 when he was forced to retire. Preparing his textbook “Fundamentals of Chemistry” in 1869, he discovered that properties of chemical elements depend periodically on atomic weights. This enabled the elaboration of a periodic system as the base for classification in chemistry, as well as for further research and development of chemical science and technology. The international scientific community accepted Mendeleyev’s system with distrust and it was generally acknowledged not before three “prophecies” of Mendeleyev were realized by the discovery of gallium (1875), scandium (1879) and germanium (1886). Later, in verification of his predictions, other elements – including transuranics – were discovered. Hence, in honor of the creator of the periodic system, the element of atomic number 101 was named mendelevium (1955). Mendeleyev was reactivated in 1892 as director of the Central Bureau for Measures and Weights where he worked until his death contributing to the progress of metrology in Russia. His activity in the field of chemical engineering is also described (e.g. underground gasification of coal, mineral oil refining, production of smokeless gunpowder). He was also successfully active in the fields of metallurgy, agrochemistry, meteorology and aerodynamics.

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D. I. Mendeleev, history of chemistry, periodic system, progress of chemistry and chemical engineering