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Happy Birthday  Mr. Mendeleev!

Dmitri Mendeleev was born in the Siberian town of Tobolsk on Feb. 8, 1834. Dmitri was the youngest of 17 children born to Ivan Pavlovich and Maria Dmitrievna Mendeleev. Dmitriís father was the principal of a gymnasium and his mother was described as a brilliant and beautiful woman who came from a prominent Siberian family and was self-educated. In 1847, Dmitriís father went blind from cataracts and was forced to retire on an inadequate pension. To support the family, Dmitriís mother opened a glass factory which burned to the ground in 1848, the same year in which Dmitriís father died.

Dmitri Mendeleev, 1855

By the age of 14, Dmitri showed great promise in science and his mother was determined to see that he receive a good education. In 1850, Dmitri and his mother walked to Moscow, almost 1,000 miles away, so that Dmitri could apply to University. When Dmitri did not get accepted to University in Moscow, the two walked to St. Petersburg where Dmitri was admitted to the Institute of Pedagogy at the age of 16 on full scholarship. That same year Dmitriís mother died at the age of 59.

Dmitri continued his studies; however he fell ill for a long period of time in his third year. Dmitri finished University in 1854 with a degree as a math and science teacher; however he remained ill with what doctors thought was tuberculosis. Shortly after graduation, he moved to the Crimean Peninsula where he taught gymnasium in Simferopol. There Dmitri finally recovered from his illness and bore no signs of tuberculosis. In 1856, he returned to Petersburg University where he finished his masterís degree, and was invited to teach at Technical Institute.

Following his masters program, Dmitri focused his life on teaching and research. He was a good teacher, devoted to his work and to his students. In 1859, Mendeleev was assigned by the Minister of Public Instruction to go abroad to study and develop scientific and technological innovations. Between 1859 and 1861 he studied the densities of gases with Regnault in Paris and the workings of the spectroscope with Kirchoff in Heidelberg. He also pursued studies of capillary action and surface tension that led to his theory of "absolute boiling point," later known as critical temperature.

Following his trip abroad, Dmitri settled down to a life of teaching and research in St. Petersburg. In 1863 he was named Professor of Chemistry at the Technological Institute and in 1866 he became Professor at the University and was awarded the title of Doctor of Science for his dissertation "On the Combinations of Water with Alcohol".

In 1863, with the heavy influence of his sister Olga, Dmitri married Feozva Nikitchna Lascheva.

Dmitri Mendeleev and his wife

Dmitri and Feozva had two children, a boy named Volodya, and a daughter named Olga. One story suggests that, at one point in their life together, Feozva asked Mendeleev if he was married to her or to science; his response was that he was married to both unless that was bigamy, in which case he was married to science. In January 1882, he divorced Feozva so he could marry his niece's best friend, Anna Ivanova Popova. Anna was considerably younger than Dmitri but the two loved each other and were together until his death. They had four children: Liubov, Ivan, and twins Vassili and Maria. Anna also had considerable influence over Mendeleev's views on art, and he was elected to the Academy of Arts for both his insightful criticism and his painting.

Mendeleev authored over 250 publications. One of his earliest and most famous publications was a book titled Organic Chemistry, which was published in 1861 when he was 27 years old. This book won the Domidov Prize and put Mendeleev at the forefront of Russian chemical education. He also authored a textbook titled Principles of Chemistry in 1868. Mendeleev never lost sight of the importance of education throughout his career.

Dmitri Mendeleevís greatest accomplishment, however, was the stating of the Periodic Law and the

Periodic Table

development of the Periodic Table. From early in his career, he felt that there was some type of order to the chemical elements, and he spent more than thirteen years of his life collecting data and assembling the concept of periodicity; initially with the idea of resolving some of the chaos in the field for his students. Mendeleev was one of the first modern-day scientists in that he did not rely solely on his own work but rather was in correspondence with scientists around the world in order to receive data that they had collected. He then used their data along with his own data to arrange the elements according to their properties. Mendeleevís original periodic table ordered the elements according to their atomic weights, however the modern periodic table is ordered by atomic number.

On January 20, 1907 at the age of 73, Mendeleev passed away while listening to a reading of Jules Verne's Journey to the North Pole.

If you would like to read more about Dmitri Mendeleev or the modern periodic table of elements, visit our Periodic Table module.

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