photograph of Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev 
Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev in 1897
Detail map of Sankt-Peterburg, Russia Overview map of Sankt-Peterburg, Russia

A: Sankt-Peterburg, Russia

Mendeleev's Discovery of the Periodic Law and the Periodic Table

 Mendeleev's 1871 periodic table
Mendeleev's 1871 periodic table

In 1869 Russian chemist Dimitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev (also romanized Mendeleyev or Mendeleef; Russian: Дми́трий Ива́нович Менделе́ев) published "Sootnoshenie svoistv s atomnym vesom elementov [Relation of the properties to the atomic weights of the elements]" in volume one of Zhurnal russkago khimicheskago oishchestra, 59-78 published in St. Petersburg by Tovarishchestvo ‘Obshchestvennaia Pol’za’. This was probably the earliest published report of his discovery of the periodic law and the first publication of a periodic table of the elements in the modern sense. The periodic table appeared on p. 70 of Mendeleev’s paper.

It has been demonstrated that this printing of the periodic table was made from the same setting of type as two single-sheet printings (with legends in French and Russian), which Mendeleev apparently circulated privately among his colleagues in Russia and abroad; Mendeleev’s manuscript copy-text for this setting of the table is dated February 18, 1869 O.S., corresponding to March 1, 1869 N.S. The same setting was used again for the printing of the table that appeared in Mendeleev’s book Osnovy khimii (1869). It is likely that the journal version was printed prior to the book version, since scientific discoveries of this type were usually announced first in journals.

According to the preface to the fifth edition of Osnovy khimii (translated into English in 1891), Mendeleev discovered the periodic law in 1869 during the time he was engaged in writing the first edition of that work.

“Mendeleev himself summarized the studies that had brought him to the periodic law in a later edition of Osnovy khimii, in which he commented on ‘four aspects of matter’ [isomorphism; relation of specific volumes of similar compounds or elements; composition of their compound salts; relations of atomic weights of elements] representing the measurable properties of elements and their compounds. . . . Since the periodic law was dependent upon the quantitative relation between atomic weight, as an independent variable, and its physical and chemical properties, Mendeleev in 1870 took up the problem of developing an entire ‘natural system of elements.’ He employed deduction to reach the boldest and most far-reaching logical consequences of the law that he had discovered, so that he might, by verification of these consequences, confirm the law itself. . . . The Osnovy khimii was finished in February 1871. . . . In March 1871, two years after his discovery of the law, Mendeleev first named it ‘periodic’ ” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). 

Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science (1964) no. 74.

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