Know the scientist: Dmitri Mendeleev

Using the Periodic Law, he developed a systematic table of all the 63 elements then known

Updated - January 07, 2021 10:52 am IST

Published - January 07, 2021 10:51 am IST

Dmitri Mendeleev was a Russian chemist and inventor who formulated the Periodic Law and the periodic table of elements.

Mendeleev was born in the Siberian town of Tobolsk. His father died when Mendeleev was 13. His mother relocated the family to St. Petersburg, where he graduated in 1855 from Main Pedagogical Institute – a teacher training institution. He took up a job as a science teacher in Simferopol, Crimea, for a short time before returning to St. Petersburg to continue his masters. He received a post graduate degree in 1856 and began to conduct research in organic chemistry.

In 1861, Mendeleev published a textbook named Organic Chemistry, which won him the Demidov Prize of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. In 1865, he became Doctor of Science for his dissertation "On the Combinations of Water with Alcohol". He was appointed professor of chemistry at the University of St. Petersburg, where he continued to teach until 1890. Unable to find a proper text for his students, Dmitri Mendeleev decided to write his own.

Between 1868 and 71, he worked on a book on modern organic chemistry. It is the research for this book that led him to his most renowned work. While explaining the chemical and physical properties of elements, he discovered similarities in the progression of atomic weights. He found that the order of atomic weights could be used to arrange the elements within each group and the groups themselves. Thus, Mendeleev formulated the periodic law. His Osnovy khimii (The Principles of Chemistry) became a classic, running through many editions and many translations.

Using the Periodic Law, Mendeleev developed a systematic table of all the 63 elements then known. He even predicted the locations of unknown elements together with their properties within the periodic table. When these predicted elements, notably gallium( 1875), scandium (1879), and germanium (1886) were discovered, Mendeleev Periodic Table began to gain wide acceptance. Incidentally, in 1870, German chemist Julius Lothar Meyer also published a paper describing the same organisation of elements as Mendeleev’s. But the latter is given credit for the table.

In all, Mendeleev predicted 10 new elements, of which all but two turned out to exist. Element 101 is named Mendelevium in his honour.

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