Chemists

Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendleev

As he attempted to classify the elements according to their chemical properties, he noticed patterns that led him to postulate his periodic table; he claimed to have envisioned the complete arrangement of the elements in a dream: „I saw in a dream a table where all elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper, only in one place did a correction later seem necessary.“

Though Mendeleev was widely honored by scientific organizations all over Europe, including (in 1882) the Davy Medal from the Royal Society of London (which later also awarded him the Copley Medal in 1905), he resigned from Saint Petersburg University on 17 August 1890. He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1892, and in 1893 he was appointed director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures, a post which he occupied until his death.

In 1905, Mendeleev was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The following year the Nobel Committee for Chemistry recommended to the Swedish Academy to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1906 to Mendeleev for his discovery of the periodic system. The Chemistry Section of the Swedish Academy supported this recommendation.

The attempts to nominate Mendeleev in 1907 were again frustrated by the absolute opposition of Arrhenius.

In 1907, Mendeleev died at the age of 72 in Saint Petersburg from influenza. His last words were to his physician: “Doctor, you have science, I have faith,” which is possibly a Jules Verne quote.

*8 February 1834, Verkhnie Aremzyani, Tobolsk Governorate, Russian Empire

†2 February 1907, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was a Russian chemist and inventor. He is best remembered for formulating the Periodic Law and creating a farsighted version of the periodic table of elements. He used the Periodic Law not only to correct the then-accepted properties of some known elements, such as the valence and atomic weight of uranium, but also to predict the properties of three elements that were yet to be discovered.

Mendeleev was raised as an Orthodox Christian, his mother encouraging him to “patiently search divine and scientific truth”

At the age of 13, after the passing of his father and the destruction of his mother’s factory by fire, Mendeleev attended the Gymnasium in Tobolsk.

In 1849, his mother took Mendeleev across Russia from Siberia to Moscow with the aim of getting Mendeleev enrolled at the Moscow University. The university in Moscow did not accept him. The mother and son continued to Saint Petersburg to the father’s alma mater.

The now poor Mendeleev family relocated to Saint Petersburg, where he entered the Main Pedagogical Institute in 1850.

After graduation, he contracted tuberculosis, causing him to move to the Crimean Peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea in 1855. While there, he became a science master of the 1st Simferopol Gymnasium. In 1857, he returned to Saint Petersburg with fully restored health.

Between 1859 and 1861, he worked on the capillarity of liquids and the workings of the spectroscope in Heidelberg. Later in 1861, he published a textbook named Organic Chemistry. This won him the Demidov Prize of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences

Mendeleev became a professor at the Saint Petersburg Technological Institute and Saint Petersburg State University in 1864, and 1865, respectively. In 1865, he became Doctor of Science for his dissertation “On the Combinations of Water with Alcohol”.

He achieved tenure in 1867 at St. Petersburg University and started to teach inorganic chemistry, while succeeding Voskresenskii to this post; by 1871, he had transformed Saint Petersburg into an internationally recognized center for chemistry research.

After becoming a teacher in 1867, Mendeleev wrote the definitive textbook of his time: Principles of Chemistry. It was written as he was preparing a textbook for his course. This is when he made his most important discovery. 


Mario Molina

Mario Molina

In his career, Molina held research and teaching positions at University of California, Irvine, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California, San Diego, and the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Molina was also Director of the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment in Mexico City. Molina was a climate policy advisor to the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Molina was named by U.S. President Barack Obama to form a transition team on environmental issues in 2008. Under President Obama, he was a member of the United States President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In 2020, Mario Molina contributed to research regarding the importance of wearing face masks amid the SARS-COV-2 pandemic.

On 7 October 2020, the National Autonomous University of Mexico announced that Molina had died of a heart attack.

*19 March 1943, Mexico City, Mexico

†7 October, 2020, Mexico City, Mexico

Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez was a Mexican chemist. He played a pivotal role in the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, and was a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in discovering the threat to the Earth’s ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases.

He was the first Mexican-born scientist to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the third Mexican born person to receive the Nobel award.

Before deciding to become a research chemist, Mario Molina had considered the idea pursuing a musical career, in particular, becoming a violinist.

After completing his basic studies in Mexico City and attending boarding school at the Institut auf dem Rosenberg in Switzerland, he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1965.

In 1967 he earned his postgraduate degree in polymerization kinetics at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, West Germany, and in 1972 a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, working with George C. Pimentel.

Between 1974 and 2004, Molina variously held research and teaching posts at University of California, Irvine, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he held a joint appointment in the Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Chemistry. 

On July 1, 2004, Molina joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of California, San Diego, and the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Molina served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 2000 to 2005. He also served on the board of directors of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2004–2014), and as a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Institutional Policy Committee and its Committee on Global Security and Sustainability.


Marie Curie

Marie Curie

While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie, who used both surnames, never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element she discovered polonium, after her native country.

Marie Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy , France, of aplastic anemia from exposure to radiation in the course of her scientific research and in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I.

In addition to her Nobel Prizes, she has received numerous other honours and tributes; in 1995 she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris’ Panthéon, and Poland declared 2011 as the Year of Marie Curie during the International Year of Chemistry.

She is the subject of numerous biographical works, where she is also known as Madame Curie.

*7 November 1867, Warsaw, Congress Poland, Russian Empire

†4 July 1934, Passy, Haute-Savoie, France

Marie Salomea Skłodowska Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.

As the first of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes, she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. She was the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris in 1906.

She was born in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw’s clandestine Flying University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw.

In 1891, aged 24, she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work.

In 1895 she married the French physicist Pierre Curie, and she shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with him and with the physicist Henri Becquerel for their pioneering work developing the theory of “radioactivity”—a term she coined. In 1906 Pierre Curie died in a Paris street accident.

Marie won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium, using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.

Under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms by the use of radioactive isotopes. In 1920 she founded the Curie Institute in Paris, and in 1932 the Curie Institute in Warsaw; both remain major centres of medical research. During World War I she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals.

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