Dmitri Mendeleev

Mendeleev by Repin

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was born in Tobolsk, Siberia, on February 7, 1834. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy was the youngest of 14 children (or 11, or 17, depending on the authority) born to Maria Dmitrievna Korniliev and Ivan Pavlovitch Mendeleev.


He revolutionized our understanding of the properties of atoms and created a table that evolved to that which probably adorns every chemistry classroom in the world. After his father went blind and could no longer support the family, Mendeleev’s mother started a glass factory to help make ends meet. But just as Mendeleev was finishing high school, his father died and the glass factory burned down. With most of her other children now out on their own, his mother took her son to St. Petersburg, working tirelessly and successfully to get him into college.

In the late 1860's, Mendeleev began working on the periodic table of the elements. By arranging all of the 63 elements then known by their atomic weights, he managed to organize them into groups possessing similar properties.

While these steps had already been done by de Chancourtois a decade earlier, where a gap existed in his own table, Mendeleev took a professional risk by predicting that a new element would one day be found to fill the gap, and went on to deduce its properties. And he was right. Three of those elements were found during his lifetime: gallium, scandium, and germanium.

The current popular flat periodic table is generally recognized as descending from his initial efforts, but it is known that he expected a three-dimensional form would be an improvement.
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