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Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev Essay, Research Paper
Dmitri Mendeleev was one of the most famous modern-day scientists of all time who contributed greatly to the world’s fields of science, technology, and politics. He helped modernize the world and set it farther ahead into the future. Mendeleev also made studying chemistry easier, by creating a table with the elements and the atomic weights of them put in order by their properties.
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was born in Tobolsk, Siberia, on February 7, 1834. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy was the son of Maria Dmitrievna Korniliev and Ivan Pavlovitch Mendeleev and the youngest of 14 children. Dmitri’s father, Ivan died when Dmitri was still very young and Dmitri’s mother, Maria was left to support her large family. Maria needed money to support all her children, so she took over managing her family’s glass factory in Aremziansk. The family had to pack up and move there.
Maria favored Dmitri because he was the youngest child and started saving money to put him through college when he had still been quite young. As a child, Dmitri spent many hours in his mother’s factory talking to the workers. The chemist there taught him about the concepts behind glass making and the glass blower taught him about the art of glass making. Another large influence in Dmitri’s life had been his sister, Olga’s, husband, Bessargin. Bessargin had been banished to Siberia because of his political beliefs as a Russian Decembrist, (Decembrists, or Dekabrists as they were known in Russia, were a group of literary men who led a revolution in Russia in 1825.), so he spent most of his time teaching Dmitri the science of the day. From these people, Dmitri grew up with 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. (Dictionary of Scientific Biography. p. 291.)
As Dmitri grew older, it became apparent to everyone that Dmitri understood complex topics better than others did. When Dmitri turned 14 and entered school in Tobolsk, a second major family tragedy occurred-his mother’s glass factory burned down to the ground. The family had no money to rebuild the factory, except for the money that Dmitri’s mother had saved for him to attend a university. Maria wasn’t about to give up her dreams that she had for her son and she knew that Dmitri’s only hope to go on to school was to win a scholarship. Maria constantly pushed Dmitri to improve his grades and prepare for his entrance exams.
At a very young age, Dmitri had already known that he wanted to study science and decided to pay very little attention in classes such as Latin and history. He believed that these topics were a waste of time and he wouldn’t need him in his career as a scientist. After much pleading from his mother and Bessargin, Dmitri passed his exams and prepared to enter the university.
In 1849, Maria packed up her life and family and moved to Moscow, because there was nothing left for them in Aremziansk anymore. They settled in a city with a considerable amount of political unrest, which meant that the universities there were very reluctant to accept anyone from outside of Moscow. Dmitri was rejected. Maria still had hope for him, so she then took her family and moved to St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg was in the same state as Moscow, but the family found an old friend of Dmitri’s father working at the Pedagogical Institute, his father’s old school. After a little persuasion, Dmitri was allowed to take the exams and passed with grades that landed him a full scholarship. Dmitri entered the university’s science teacher training program in the fall of 1850.
Maria died very soon after Dmitri was accepted to the university and so did his sister, Elizabeth. Both died due to tuberculosis. Dmitri was left alone to face his work at the university and he immersed himself in it. His studies progressed rapidly for three years, until he became ill and was bedridden for one year. During this year, Dmitri continued his studies by having professors and fellow students visit him and give him assignments, etc. Dmitri managed to graduate on time and was awarded the medal of excellence for being the first in his class.
Dmitri’s illness did not improve and the doctor’s told him that he would have a maximum of two years left to live if he moved to a warmer climate. Dmitri had many goals for his future, so trying to extend his life as long as possible, he moved to Simferopol in the Crimean Peninsula near the Black Sea in 1855. At 21 years of age, Dmitri became the chief science master at the local school. This move to the south highly improved his condition and began regaining health to the point where doctors could no longer find any signs of disease in his body.
In 1856, Dmitri returned to St. Petersburg to defend his master’s thesis: “Research and Theories on Expansion of Substances Due to Heat.” After this, Dmitri focused his career on teaching and research. “Dmitri was devoted to two things: First, his work and his students. Second, his country and his fellow men. His first love led him to write many books and to organize the periodic table, while the other gave rise to the studies of chemical technology and the organization of Russia’s industries, agriculture, transport, meteorology, and metrology.” (Makers of Chemistry. p. 267.)
In 1859, the Minister of Public Instruction assigned him to travel to study and develop scientific and technological innovations. Between 1859 and 1861, Dmitri studied the densities of gases with Regnault in Paris and then he studied the workings of the spectroscope with Kirchoff in Heidelberg. Later, Dmitri went on to study capillarity and surface tension. This led to his theory of an “absolute boiling point,” which we know now as critical temperature. While studying in Heidelberg, Dmitri made an acquaintance with A.P. Borodin, a chemist who achieved greater fame as a composer. In 1860, at the Chemical Congress in Karlsruhe, Dmitri got the opportunity to hear Cannizzaro discuss his work on atomic weights. All these people had great influence on Dmitri’s work, which he would pursue for the rest of his life.
After traveling around Europe, Dmitri returned to Russia and settled down to devote his life to teaching and research in St. Petersburg. In 1863, he was made Professor of Chemistry at the Technological Institute and, in 1866, he became Professor of Chemistry at the University and was also made Doctor of Science there for his lectures on “The Combinations of Water and Alcohol.” Dmitri’s research findings were expansive and very beneficial to the Russian people. Much of his lab work was done outside the classroom, on his own time and he truly enjoyed educating people and himself.
Dmitri not only taught in classrooms, but he also gave lectures to whoever would listen on his journeys. When travelling by train, Dmitri would sit with the peasants (also known as the mouzhiks) and share his findings about agriculture over a cup of tea. Peasants and university students alike adored him and gathered around and filled lecture halls to hear him talk about chemistry.
Throughout Dmitri’s whole life, he believed that science was always the most important subject. In the fragile state of Russia during that time, though, science also touched upon the subjects of politics and social inequality, in which Dmitri openly expressed his views on these topics. The thoughts that he came up with over these topics led Dmitri to discover the periodic law, but it also led to his resignation from the University on August 17, 1890. Up until this point, Dmitri continuously witnessed his country be repressed and suffer and he decided to use his newfound prestige and power to speak out against repression. To resign from the university, Dmitri had to carry a student petition to the Minister of Education. The Minister refused to allow Dmitri to leave because he believed that he would be better at teaching than involving himself with students and politics. Dmitri was finally allowed to resign after delivering his final lecture at the University of St. Petersburg, where police broke it up because they feared that it might lead the students in an uprising.
Dmitri’s personal life was very turbulent as well. In 1863, due to his sister, Olga, greatly influencing him, Dmitri married Feozva Nikitchna Lascheva. Together they had two children, a boy named, Volodya, and a girl named, Olga. Dmitri had never really loved Feozva and spent little time with her. There’s a story that suggests that at one point in their marriage, Feozva asked Dmitri if he was married to her or to his science. In return, he responded that he was married to both, unless that was considered bigamy, in which case, he was married to science. In January 1882, Dmitri divorced Feozva so that he could marry his niece’s best friend, Anna Ivanova Popova. The Orthodox Church considered Dmitri a bigamist, but he had become so famous in Russia that the Czar said, “Mendeleev has two wives, yes, but I have only one Mendeleev.” (Czar Alexander II, Discovery of the Elements, The. p. 111). Anna was much younger than Dmitri was but they loved each other very much and were together until death. They had four children in total together, Liubov, Ivan, and twins, Vassili and Maria. Anna also influenced Dmitri’s views on art considerably and he was elected to the Academy of Arts because he was thought to have insightful criticism and for his painting.
As Dmitri grew older, he cared less and less about his personal appearance. In his later years, Dmitri would only cut his hair and beard once a year. He wouldn’t even cut it at the Czar’s request. It was apparent that Dmitri’s work was his first and only priority.
Dmitri also believed that education was of the utmost importance, so he published many books. In 1854, he published his first book, Chemical Analysis of a Sample from Finland. His published his last books in 1906, A Project for a School for Teachers and Toward Knowledge of Russia. The first edition of Principles of Chemistry was printed in 1868 and in 1861, at 27 years old, he published his most famous book, Organic Chemistry. This book won him the Domidov Prize and put him about of other Russian chemists. Both these books were used as classroom texts. All in all, all of Dmitri’s transcripts that involved his research findings and beliefs totaled well over 250 ideas.
Other than working on general chemical concepts, Dmitri also spent much of his time trying to improve Russia’ technological advances. Many of his research findings dealt with agricultural chemistry, oil refining, and mineral recovery. Dmitri was also one of the founding members of the Russian Chemical Society in 1868 and he helped open the lines of communication between scientists in Europe and the United States.
Dmitri also did studies on the properties and behaviors of gases at high and low pressures, which led to him developing a very accurate barometer and further studying in meteorology. Dmitri was also interested in balloons. His greatest and most well known accomplishment was the stating of the Periodic Law and the development of the Periodic Table. From the beginning of his career in science, Dmitri believed that there was some sort of order to the elements and spent more than thirteen years of his life collecting data and assembling the concept. He wanted to do this in order to clear up some of the confusion about the elements for his students. Dmitri was considered one of the first modern-day scientists because he did not use only his own work and discoveries, but communicated with other scientists around the world to receive the data that they had collected. He then used all the data that he had and gathered to arrange the elements according to their properties. He believed that:
No law of nature, however general, has been established all at once; its recognition has always been preceded by many presentiments. The establishment of a low, moreover, does not take place when the first thought of it takes form, or even when its significance is recognized, but only when it has been confirmed by the results of the experiment. The man of science must consider these results as the only proof of the correctness of his conjectures and opinions. (Mendeleev, Eminent Chemists of Our Time. p. 28.)
In 1866, Newlands published a book filled with the relationships of the elements called, Law of Octaves. Dmitri’s ideas were similar to Newlands, but Dmitri had more collected data and went father along in his research than Newlands had done. By 1869, Dmitri had assembled detailed descriptions of more than 60 elements and on March 6, 1869, a formal presentation was made to the Russian Chemical Society called, “The Dependence Between the Properties and the Atomic Weights of the Elements.” Dmitri could not deliver this presentation due to an illness and his colleague Professor Menshutken had to do it for him. There were eight key points to the presentation:
1.The elements, if arranged according to their atomic weights,
exhibit an apparent periodicity of properties.
2. Elements which are similar as regards their chemical properties have atomic weights which are either of nearly the same value (e.g. Pt, Ir, Os) or which increase regularly (e.g. K, Ru, Cs).
3. The arrangement of the elements, or of groups of elements in the order of their atomic weights, corresponds to their so-called valences, as well as, to some extent, to their distinctive chemical properties; as is apparent among other series in that of Li, Be, Ba,
C, N, O, and Sn.
4. The elements which are the most widely diffused have small atomic weights.
5. The magnitude of the atomic weight determines the character of a compound body.
6. We must expect the discovery of many as yet unknown elements-for example, elements analogous to aluminum and silicon-whose atomic weight would be between 65 and 75.
7. The atomic weight of an element may sometimes be amended by a knowledge of those of its contiguous elements. Thus the atomic weight of tellurium must lie between 123 and 126, and cannot be 128.
8. Certain characteristic properties of elements can be foretold from their atomic weights. (Mendeleev, Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. p. 408.)
On November 29, 1870, Dmitri took his concepts even further by realizing that it was possible to predict the properties of undiscovered elements. He made predictions for three new elements (eka-aluminum, eka-borno, and eka-silicon) and stated their properties of density, radii, and combining ratios among oxygen, just to name a few. Scientists were puzzled by these predications and many shunned them. Dmitri’s ideas were finally taken seriously when in November, 1875, a Frenchman, Lecoq de Boisbaudran discovered Dmitri’s predicted element, eka-aluminum, which he decided to name Gallium. Later on, the two other elements were discovered and their properties were found to be very close to when Dmitri had predicted. This justified his periodic law and his predictions. At 35 years old, Dmitri Mendeleev was at the top of the science world.
Throughout the rest of his life, Dmitri received numerous awards from different organizations, including the Davy Medal from the Royal Society of England in 1882, the Copley Medal, the Society’s highest award in 1905, and honorary degrees from different universities around the world. After Dmitri had resigned from the University of St. Petersburg, the Russian government had appointed him the Director of Bureau of Weights and Measures in 1893. This had been done to keep public disapproval of the government down. Until his death, Dmitri had been considered a popular social figure. In his last lecture at the University of St. Petersburg, Dmitri said:
I have achieved an inner freedom. There is nothing in this world that I fear to say. No one nor anything can silence me. This is a good feeling. This is the feeling of a man. I want you to have this feeling too – it is my moral responsibility to help you achieve this inner freedom. I am an evolutionist of a peaceable type. Proceed and a logical and systematic manner. (Mendeleev, Encyclopedia of Chemistry, The. p.711.)
Dmitri was a man who rose out of the crowd to lead his people and followers into the future. The motto of Dmitri Mendeleev’s life was work, which he stated as:
Work, look for peace and calm in work: you will find it nowhere else. Pleasures flit by – they are only for yourself; work leaves a mark of long-lasting joy, work is for others. (Mendeleev, Short History of Chemistry, A. p. 195)
On January 20 1907, at the age of 73, while listening to a reading of Jules Verne’s Journey to the North Pole, Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev floated away, peacefully, for the last time. He was a genius of his time and made a significant amount of contributions to his people and the entire world. He helped modernize and set a faster pace for education in science, technology, and politics. He also taught others the benefits of hard work and to always believe in yourself and to stand behind and voice your opinions no matter how radical they may seem.
Asimov, Isaac. “Mendeleev.” (1964.) Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of
Science and Technology. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. p. 408-410.
Asimov, Issac. (1965.) Short History of Chemistry, A. Garden City, New York:
Doubleday & Company, Inc. p. 132, 134-136, 195, 218, 220-221, 235.
Clark, George L., Gessner G Hawley, & William A. Hamor. (1957.)
Encyclopedia of Chemistry, The. New York: Reinhold Publishing
Corporation. p. 112, 583, 711.
Clemens, R. (1956.) Modern Chemical Discoveries. New York: E.P. Dutton &
Co. p. 3-12
Encyclopedia of World Biography. “Mendeleev.” (1998.) 2nd edition. Vol. 10.
Lov-Mic. Detroit: Gale. p. 486-488.
Gillispie, Charles Coulston. “Mendeleev.” (1974.) Dictionary of Scientific
Biography. Volume IX. A.T. Mac-K.F. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. p. 286-293.
Harrow, B. (1927.) Eminent Chemists of Our Time. 2nd edition. New York:
Van Nostrand. p. 18-40, 273-285.
Holmyard, E.J. (1929.) Makers of Chemistry. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p.
Ley, Willy. (1968.) Discovery of the Elements, The. New York, New York:
Delacorte Press. p. 110-115.
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