Today in New England we are expecting a blizzard, an extreme weather event that surely would have delighted Dmitry Mendeleev, a famous Russian chemist who was fascinated by who was fascinated by weather science as well as by elements of all kinds. Not all scientists are remembered on their 179th birthday, but Mendeleev’s contributions to modern science are so important that his Periodic Table of the Elements – which now includes an element named for him, mendelevium, – is an essential reference for every chemist.
Born in 1834, Mendeleev came from poor circumstances, working hard to become an accomplished chemist and teacher. He devised the Periodic Table, which classifies elements by their chemical properties, as a learning tool for his students. He understood and organized the properties of elements so thoroughly, it allowed him to predict the discovery of three new elements: gallium, scandium and germanium. Those predictions made him famous, and he went on to pursue other questions and tasks, always in search of the best answers. His fascination with weather led him to invent a type of barometer, and he contributed to advances in such diverse areas as cheese-making, vodka distillery, oil refining, and standardizing weights and measures.
Young scientists can learn about Mendeleev and other pioneers of science in Tumblehome Learning’s The Desperate Case of the Diamond Chip, in which two kids working on a science fair travel through time to solve a mystery. In the course of their adventure, Mae and Clinton, see real scientists – Mendeleev and a host of others – face the challenges of their own times, be it organizing elements or debunking seances. Part of Tumblehome’s Galactic Academy of Science series, it’s interesting, fun reading for kids learning science fundamentals.