Dmitri Mendeleev Biography and Facts

Biography of Dmitri Mendeleev - Inventor of the Periodic Table

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev is the Russian scientist credited with the formulation of the modern periodic table.
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev is the Russian scientist credited with the formulation of the modern periodic table. De Agostini Picture Library, Getty Images

Why was Dmitri Mendeleev (1834 - 1907)? This brief biography offers facts about the life, discoveries, and times about the Russian scientist best known for devising the modern periodic table of elements.

Dmitri Mendeleev Biographical Data

Full Name: Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev

Born: Mendeleev was born February 8, 1834 in Tobolsk, a town in Siberia, Russia. He was the youngest of a large family. The exact size of the family is a matter of dispute with sources putting the number of siblings between eleven and seventeen. His father was Ivan Pavlovich Mendeleev and his mother was Dmitrievna Kornilieva. A glass family was the family business. Mendeleev was raised as a Russian Orthodox Christian.

Died: Dmitri Mendeleev died February 2, 1907 (age 72) of influenza in St. Petersburg, Russia. His students carried a large copy of the periodic table of elements at his funeral as a tribute.

Main Claims to Fame:

  • In the 1860's, Dmitri Mendeleev noticed recurring trends in the chemical and physical properties of different elements. Drawing on his understanding of element characteristics, Mendeleev arranged the known elements in a grid. He presented this periodic law to the Russian Chemical Society in 1869.
  • Based on the periodic law, Mendeleev formulated a periodic table of the elements similar to the one used today. The only real difference between his table and the one we use today is that Mendeleev's table ordered elements by increasing atomic weight, while the present table is ordered by increasing atomic number.
  • Element 101 Md (Mendelevium) is named after him.

Dmitri Mendeleev and the Periodic Table of the Elements

While writing his textbook, Principles of Chemistry, Mendeleev found that if you arrange the elements in order of increasing atomic mass, their chemical properties demonstrated definite trends. This lead to his periodic table, which is the basis for the current periodic table of the elements. His table had blank spaces where he predicted three unknown elements which turned out to be germanium, gallium and scandium. Based on the periodic properties of the elements, as shown in the table, Mendeleev was about to predict properties of 8 elements, in total, which had not even been discovered.

Interesting Facts about Mendeleev

  • Mendeleev's academic adviser was another famous scientist, Gustav Kirchhoff. His most notable students were Valery Gemilian, Dmitri Petrovich Konovalov, and Alexander Baykov.
  • Mendeleev is credited for bringing the metric system to Russia and was director of Russia's Bureau of Weights and Measures.
  • Due to a legal technicality, he was considered a bigamist for not waiting the required seven years after a divorce before marrying his second wife.
  • Mendeleev founded the first oil refinery in Russia.
  • In his later years, he became known for his large beard and long hair. It was said he would only cut his hair and beard once a year.
  • While you might think such a significant contribution as the periodic table would have earned Mendeleev a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he was passed over for the honor (twice). He was further refused acceptance into an institution because of rancor regarding a romantic matter.
  • Mendeleev was awarded the Davy Medal (1882) and ForMemRS (1892).
  • Mendeleev's father lost his eyesight, so Dmitri's mother went to work to try to keep the glass factory going. Dmitri's father passed away when Dmitri was only thirteen years old. After this, his mother moved the family from Siberia to Moscow.
  • Dmitri was rejected for entry into the University of Moscow, so the family moved to St. Petersburg, where Dmitri enrolled in his father's alma mater, the Main Pedagogical Institute (1850).
  • Mendeleev graduated from the Institute in 1855. He taught in Odessa and Simferopol, eventually returning to St. Petersburg for a master's degree. After this, he went to the University of Heidelberg for two years, to continue his education.
  • Periodic law and the organization of the periodic table did not gain immediate acceptance by the scientific community. It took about 20 years for Mendeleev's ideas to take hold, as three new elements were discovered that did indeed have properties predicted by periodic law.
  • Mendeleev was married twice. He wed Feozva Nikitchna Leshcheva in 1862 and Anna Ivanova Popova in 1882. He had a total of six children from these marriages.