7
$\begingroup$

This is not a question about chemistry as a science, but as a school discipline.
Why is it that Mendeleev as a person is barely mentioned in chemistry courses compared to all the others, like Coulomb, Bohr, Planck, Heisenberg, Boyle, Avogadro, etc.? His story is quite inspiring and I think we should all learn it while in school, not by watching a YouTube video (as was my case). In my layman's view, Mendeleev performed a thought jump (can't even call that an insight) equivalent to that of Einstein's special relativity when coming up with the concept of the periodic table. Today, we take the table for granted, but how would someone even begin to think of such a concept back when we knew so little about chemistry?

Is this some left over from the Cold War, because Mendeleev was Russian? Or something similar to Newton vs Leibniz, or maybe even Edison vs Tesla?

I do not believe the question I have asked is completely subjective, because I would assume some chemistry teachers to be present. Mendeleev's contributions to chemistry are indisputable, yet, we learn so little about him.

$\endgroup$

migrated from chemistry.stackexchange.com Jun 23 '17 at 6:33

This question came from our site for scientists, academics, teachers, and students in the field of chemistry.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Probably depends on your teacher. When I was younger, my teacher told us a lot about Mendeleev. Same with Leibniz and Tesla. In higher maths, Leibniz is especially mentioned a lot (Leibniz integration, DUIS etc.). $\endgroup$ – Equinox Jun 19 '17 at 3:37
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @FinnTheHuman If you say something like "I have empirical data" you should verify that with a source. Otherwise it's just speculation. $\endgroup$ – Fl.pf. Jun 19 '17 at 7:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A cursory glance at even the Wikipedia entry for the history of the periodic table illustrates that while Mendeleev first proposed the table as it exists today, he was clearly standing on the shoulders of giants. A thorough historical accounting of the evolution of the periodic table would have to include the numerous contributions of many scientists before him, and that might be why it's not something appropriate for a chemistry course but for a historical one. His contributions are notable; the format for discussing them is likely not a rigorous chemistry class. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Jun 19 '17 at 12:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I thank you all for your feedback. @Fl.pf. a) My empirical data comes from doing a "journalistic" study on Chemistry teaching through private schools in my city (no public school complied). It is not on a satisfactory format, but I'd gladly translate it and post it somewhere online, maybe a pastebin? b) I said it had nothing to do with Chemistry as a science, but plenty as a discipline, and since there's a tag for Chemistry History, I thought it would be fitting. $\endgroup$ – FinnTheHuman Jun 23 '17 at 4:06
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt I 100% Agree. Every scientist is standing in the shoulders of giants, even Einstein was. Einstein also had numerous contributions: mathematical equations describing magnetism, the fail to detect the ether , the confirmation that light does not travel instantaneously, all those came before Special Relativity. About Mendeleev, I'm just saying, he doesn't get the deserved treatment as the absolute genius, able to predict the periodical trends of chemical elements, and predict properties of elements yet to be discovered, based on his theory. $\endgroup$ – FinnTheHuman Jun 23 '17 at 4:37
6
$\begingroup$

I share the same sentiments as well. Actually Dimitri Mendeleev, is still one of my favourite Chemists (actually the best).

Leaving everything non-chemistry aside, he made one of the most astonishing discoveries in chemistry. As the this article states:

Good scientists discover new information and make sense of it, linking it to other data. They may go further by giving an explanation of this linked data which, maybe not immediately, other scientists accept as a correct explanation.

And goes on further..

However the outstanding scientist goes further in predicting consequences of his ideas which can be tested. This boldness identifies the great scientist if the predictions are later found to be accurate.

Which really agrees with idea that he is one of the greatest. This true prediction later formed the foundations of various branches of chemistry including periodicity, much of inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry.

I guess the reason memories of him quickly vanish, is because his concepts are taught at at very basic or entry of chemistry and as humans we tend to forget and quickly become preoccupied with more difficult stuff as we further study chemistry.

Sometimes its just preference, for example my chemistry teacher's favourite scientist/chemist was Henry Louis Le Châtelier while my medicinal chemistry teacher's favourite was Kekulé

Thus all scientist who made contribution to the field of chemistry all deserve equal recognition and honour as chemistry would never be the same without them

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Agree! I don't think I mentioned the fact that the periodic table wasn't a table for accident. I did know that, but I though all those who'd read my question would take this knowledge of mine into consideration. I was not talking about Mendeleev because he thought atoms had atomic numbers, noticed noble gases tended to be stable and decided to put a "line-break" in his table there. I was talking about his mind-boggling predictions that element of atomic number X would have Q, R, and S properties. I do believe that, with the level of Chemical knowledge of his time, that was pure genius. $\endgroup$ – FinnTheHuman Jun 23 '17 at 4:26
1
$\begingroup$

The answer to your question is that Mendeleev wrote mostly in Russian and there are few translations of his original papers.

In any case his name is synonymous with the discovery of the periodic table and I would argue that he is one of the most famous chemists of the modern era. See my book on the periodic table.

The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance, OUP, 2007.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Please stop putting your website as signature into your posts, it might be considered spam. $\endgroup$ – Byte Commander Mar 26 '18 at 7:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.