Dmitri Mendeleev Google Doodle celebrates father of the periodic table

8 Feb 2016

Statue of Dmitri Mendeleev image via Wikimedia Commons

Dmitri Mendeleev, the man who created much of the periodic table that remains the bedrock for chemists today, has gotten his own Google Doodle on what would be his 182nd birthday.

Even if those in secondary education chose not go on to study science at third level, they will at least remember the name Dmitri Mendeleev as the man who went from actinium to zirconium in charting the first periodic table.

Born in the depths of Siberia, Russia, in 1834, Mendeleev always had a keen love of the sciences, which led him to undertake studies in chemistry in Germany and Russia.

Future Human

Having moved to St Petersburg and graduated from university, Mendeleev went on to teach in Simferopol and Odessa before returning to St Petersburg as a professor at St Petersburg Technological Institute and the University of St Petersburg, where he remained for much of his life.

But, during that time, Mendeleev was frustrated with not having a proper textbook with which to pass on to his students a finer understanding of inorganic chemistry, which led to his writing The Principles of Chemistry.

First periodic table

The first periodic table, presented by Dmitri Mendeleev. Image via Chemical Heritage Foundation

It was during his research for the book during the 1860s that Mendeleev began to notice something rather remarkable: there was a recurring pattern among many of the elements, particularly when looking at their chemical and physical properties.

Years passed as Mendeleev slaved over this developing grid system that paired similar elements in sections ranked by their atomic weight, and which was also a means of predicting the discovery of future elements.

Finally, in 1869, Mendeleev was able to present his findings to the Russian Chemical Society. But it was not all rosy for the Russian chemist, whose work was not particularly well-received by his peers.

Dmitri Google Doodle

It took almost two decades of further research and the discovery of elements predicted by his model for it to be accepted, which led to the presentation in 1889 of the periodic table as we would know it.

Today’s Mendeleev Doodle is a rather simple affair, showing the chemist holding one of the elements which made it on to his first periodic table.

And, for those not particularly sure of which element he is holding, chemists will be quick to say it is sulphur, one of the six non-metals.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic