Inspirational & Thought Provoking People Part 5: Dimitri Mendeleev

In part 5 of this series, I would like to talk about a very important Russian chemist that is relatively unknown outside the scientific community, but made tremendous contributions to human society through his revolutionary thought in Chemistry. As usual, I will begin by having a section discussing the life of this person and then will proceed to discuss their findings and their importance in human advancement.

So who was Dimitri Mendeleev?

Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was the youngest of 12 siblings born on February 8, 1834 in the village Verkhnie Aremzyani near a city named Tobolosk in the Siberian region of Russia to Ivan Mendeleev & Mariya Kornileva. Soon after his birth, his father went blind and had to give up his teaching career, which then forced his mother to start working in her previously abandoned glass factory. When he reached 13 years of age, his father passed away. In a courageous effort, his mother, Maria, took Dimitri across Russia, all the way to Moscow with the intent of getting Dimitri higher education as she saw talent in him from a very young age. Unfortunately, the University of Moscow did not accept him so they both continued onto Saint Peterburgh where he joined the Main Pedagogical Institute in 1850. Sadly, his mother died a few months later due to the exhaustion caused by the 2,400 km trip from Tobolsk to Saint Petersburg. Dimitri married Feozva Leshcheva in 1862, whom he eventually divorced and then married Anna Popova in 1882. Mr. Mendeleev died on February 2, 1907.

What did he discover and why was it important?

His most important discovery was the formulation of the Periodic Law of the elements, which came to be known as the Periodic Table of Elements that we’ve all seen in the chemistry classes from our schooling years. Before him, the chemists back in the day would discover new elements, but no one before him could determine if there was a universal truth between the elements – it was essentially a element “jungle” before Mendeleev. He was so confident in his model that he left 8 blank spaces throughout his table of elements where he firmly believed that undiscovered elements should be placed. Eventually, scientists did confirm the existence of those missing undiscovered elements, some during his lifetime, some after he had passed away.¬† To summarize, his table revealed a fundamental law of nature:

The properties of the elements are determined by their atomic weight & vary in a regular periodic way across the table. The elements are periodic since they repeat certain properties across the table in a regular, repeating manner.

Here is a picture of Dimitri’s original periodic table from 1869:

Mendeleev's_1869_periodic_table

Thank you for taking the time on reading about the life of Dimitri Mendeleev and his contributions to the advancement of humanity. I have a great amount of respect for Mr. Mendeleev and his life work and wanted get his name out in the greater public. Hopefully this post has inspired you to go out and learn about interesting people like him throughout human history that have shaped our society.

-Irshad

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