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3 Valuable Life Lessons We Learned From Dmitri Mendeleev

Born nearly 200 ago, he’s still considered to be one of the greatest scientists that ever lived on this planet. Dmitri Mendeleev’s merits to all forms of science, not just organic chemistry, are immense and infinite. In honor of his professional achievements and the life changing legacy he left for all of us, the year of 2019, which marks 150 years since the invention of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, has officially been named International Year of the Periodic Table by the United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO. Here are 3 valuable life lessons we learned from Mendeleev that they never wrote in chemistry books.

A modest upbringing should not define your life

Born in a village in the midst of Siberia, Mendeleev had over a dozen siblings. His mother was a merchant’s daughter and his father was a gymnasium’s principal where he also worked as a teacher. By the time Mendeleev was 13 years old his family had hit rock bottom. His father had lost his sight and his academic career. His mother had lost her family’s factory in a fire. The modest upbringing of the young Mendeleev had become a struggling string of teenage years during which he couldn’t find a reputable school that would accept his application.

He moved a lot with his mother in the hopes of finding an institution that would allow him to receive a higher education. The Main Pedagogical Institute in Saint Petersburg finally accepted him. What followed was a brilliant career of achievements that transformed the once poor village boy into a worldwide acclaimed scientist and inventor.

You shouldn’t give up even when faced with a fatal health complication

In the early 1850s Mendeleev was struck by the ever-dreaded tuberculosis just after graduating the Main Pedagogical Institute. Other members of his polynomial family had already lost their lives to that very same disease and shortly after contracting it, his doctors told him he’d have only a couple more years to live – at best.

In his early 20s Mendeleev wasn’t ready to give up on his life and work, so he sought a warmer climate and eventually moved to the Crimean islands. Bedridden and nearly crippled by the disease, he kept working from his believed-to-be deathbed while slowly recovering. A few years later he fully regained his former strength and returned to Saint Petersburg, more driven to pursue his dreams than before. Needless to say, medicine in the 1850s wasn’t nearly as evolved as it is nowadays, so no one believed Mendeleev would ever get back up on his feet.

People will use you to their advantage

The popular vodka brand Russian Standard pulled a marketing stunt which eventually backfired. Their campaigns misleadingly claimed that “In 1894, Dmitri Mendeleev, the greatest scientist in all Russia, received the decree to set the Imperial quality standard for Russian vodka and the ‘Russian Standard’ was born”. It was only natural that many people bought the story – along with the vodka that came with it because let’s face it, Russian Standard namedropped Dmitri Mendeleev out of all people.

In reality, he never wrote a single line about vodka in any of his academic works, he did not have a decree to set quality standards for vodka and he most definitely did not have anything to do with government decisions on vodka. That didn’t stop Russian Standard’s marketers from claiming the product was “compliant with the highest quality of Russian vodka approved by the royal government commission headed by Mendeleev in 1894”. As a matter of fact, Russian Standard was founded in 1998, the 38% (later rounded to 40%) alcohol percentage standard was actually set by the Russian government all the way back in 1843, and at that point Mendeleev was only a 9 year old kid. Nice try, guys, nice try.

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