Saturday, February 8, 2014

02/08/1834 - Happy Birthday Mendeleev !

Of all the chemists I admire, Dmitri Mendeleev could be my favorite one. In a very well known and I guess the most common photo of him, we can see him with his long hair and beard. When I look at this photo, I can see the wise man in his eyes. He is sitting at his desk with a bunch of papers (chemistry journals maybe?) and probably talking to the interviewer. Behind his desk, there is a library full of books and I would like to learn what he read.

I will not go into the details of his life. One of the several books I've read is Mendeleyev's Dream and you can read my post about it here. I think you can read enough details about his life in the relevant chapter. I also have a bunch of books in my amazon shopping cart and they are waiting for their turn to be read.

Anyway, what really fascinating about Mendeleev is that he fully understood the periodic law and the properties of the elements that were known at that time. He was so good at this that he went further and predicted a few elements. He also stood up when there were some results that conflicted with his predictions. When Lecoq discovered Gallium (ekaaluminum) he reported different properties than Mendeleev had previously predicted. Instead of correcting his predictions with the experimental data, Mendeleev wrote to Lecoq and asked him to repeat the experiments. In the end, Mendeleev was right! 

I think a few key elements that shaped his future in his career are the chemistry conference of 1860 Karlsruhe and his work/study with Kirchoff and Bunsen. He was also a man that did not really get along well with the government. He tried to stand by his people instead of the regime and had troubles because of his political views. But, he did not lose. At least he did what he could.

I also think that although some of his ideas seem unacceptable for some people, they are mostly correct. "We could live at the present day without a Plato, but a double number of Newtons is required to discover the secrets of nature, and to bring life into harmony with the laws of nature."

Today is his birthday and I am so happy that a man like him is recognized as the "father" of the periodic table. He was not awarded a Nobel Prize maybe, but at least he will be remembered forever with element 101: mendelevium.

More about him:

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