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Dmitri Mendeleev & the Periodic Table: Biography, Contribution & Facts

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  • 0:00 Who Was Dmitri Mendeleev?
  • 1:55 Contributions to the…
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Elizabeth (Nikki) Wyman

Nikki has a master's degree in teaching chemistry and has taught high school chemistry, biology and astronomy.

A man of many eccentricities, Dmitri Mendeleev and his contributions to the periodic table are so significant that they have been compared to Darwin and the development of the theory of evolution. Read about this legendary chemist and his role in developing one of the most important tools used in science. Then quiz yourself on your new knowledge.

Who Was Dmitri Mendeleev?

A chemist by both education and trade, Dmitri Mendeleev helped to transform the world of science with his way of organizing the elements. Mendeleev was born in Russia, where he spent much of his scientific career teaching and studying chemistry.

Dmitri Mendeleev's story begins in Tobolsk, Russia. In 1834, the Mendeleev family welcomed Dmitri, youngest of 17 children, to the world. The Mendeleevs were a relatively well-off family who valued education. When Dmitri's father passed away in 1847, his mother took it upon herself to ensure that Dmitri went to university, taking him over 1,300 miles to St. Petersburg to enroll. Legend has it that Mrs. Mendeleev made the journey with Dimitri on horseback, then died shortly after he was accepted to the Institute of Pedagogy in St. Petersburg.

The bright young Dmitri Mendeleev finished his studies and then began working at the university in chemistry. His studies took him to Paris and Heidelberg but eventually, he returned to St. Petersburg where he began tinkering with the organization of the elements.

In 1869, Mendeleev unveiled his periodic table, quickly gaining recognition for his way of arranging elements according to likeness in weight and chemical reactivity.

In the years after developing his version of the periodic table, Mendeleev spent his time teaching chemistry and researching the thermal expansion of liquids and the nature of petroleum. In 1893, three years after retiring from teaching, he became the Director for the Bureau of Weights and Measures in St. Petersburg. Many sources report that during the later years of his life, Mendeleev became more and more eccentric, refusing to believe in the existence of the electron or radiation. In 1907, Mendeleev passed away.

Contributions to the Periodic Table

Mendeleev is often mistakenly called the inventor or the creator of the periodic table. While Mendeleev is perhaps the most important contributor to the development of the periodic table, he did not create it from scratch. Instead, Mendeleev improved upon the existing form of the periodic table in a novel way, turning an idea into a functioning, ingenious tool for categorizing elements.

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