Back in Time: Dmitri Mendeleev born on February 8th, 1834

Scientist Dmitri Mendeleev made many important discoveries and developments for the Periodic Table. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Peyton Powell

Staff Writer 

Germanium, Gallium, and Scandium. These are three of the elements that this great mind discovered, along with coming up with our modern day periodic table. He is called the father of the periodic table, and his name is Dmitri Mendeleev, and on this day 184 years ago, he was born.

Dmitri Mendeleev was born on February 8th, 1834 in a small Siberian village, to Russian parents Ivan Pavlovich Mendeleev, a teacher, and Maria Dmitrievna Mendeleev, restorer of her family’s old glass factory. Mendeleev was raised as an Orthodox Christian along with his other 14 siblings. In total Dmitri had 17 siblings, but a few died shortly after birth, and to this day, scholars are still trying debating on the number of siblings. The youngest of his 17 siblings, he attended the Gymnasium, a school that was designed to emphasize on strong academics, after his father died when he was 13, and his mother’s family glass factory was destroyed by a fire.

In the year 1849, Mendeleev’s mother took him from Siberia to Moscow with the goal of getting a higher education for her son. The University of Moscow however did not accept Dmitri Mendeleev. The pair then travelled to St. Petersburg to his father’s alma mater, Main Pedagogical Institute, where he began in 1850. Shortly after graduating from university, he moved to the Crimean Peninsula in 1855 after he contracted tuberculosis. During his time living in the Crimean, he became a Science Master at the Simferopol gymnasium No1. After he made a full recovery, he then returned to St. Petersburg to be with his family.

Mendeleev then started to work on the capillarity of liquids in Heidelberg, Germany, as well as the workings of the spectroscope, in the years of 1859 to 1861. In 1861, Mendeleev then published a textbook that was called Organic Chemistry, and which won him the Demidov Prize of the Petersburg Academy of Science. Then in the year 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev founded what we know today as the periodic table.

Before Mendeleev became the “father of the periodic table,” there were other men who came up with their rendition of the periodic table, like John Newlands, who came up with the Law of Octaves, and put them in order according to their atomic weight. Another chemist was Lothar Meyer, who in 1864 put 28 elements in order by their valence electrons, but the problem with his periodic table was that it left no room for new elements.

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Then in the year 1867, after the previous failed attempts by other chemists, Dmitri Mendeleev decided to put the elements in order based on their chemical properties. Mendeleev then presented his periodic table on in a formal presentation to the Russian Chemical Society on March 6th, 1869 in which he titled it The Dependence between the Properties of the Atomic Weights of the Elements. In his presentation, he described how he put the elements in order of both their atomic weight and their valence electrons. He then published his findings in a Russian journal, that included his periodic table with all the known elements, and with a few of the elements he predicted to complete the table.

Dmitri Mendeleev went on to accomplish many more great things in the Chemistry community, some of which included becoming an elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and being nominated, for a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Mendeleev died on February 2nd, 1907, at the age of 72 from influenza, and element number 101 on the periodic table is named after him, mendelevium, as well as a crater on the moon.

Mendeleev contributed many things to the modern-day Chemistry, and without this genius, we would never have been able to make the discoveries that we have made today. So, on this day, February 8th, we remember the day 184, that this great mind was born.