Monday, February 08, 2010

Since tomorrow is looking bleak on the hero front I decided to complete the trifecta for today, by having hero number three recognized. His name is Dmitri Mendeleev, born this day 1834 in Tobolsk, Russia. He was thought to be the youngest of 14 children (the numbers differ), and at the age of 13 his father died. This upheaval was quickly followed by the burning down of his mother's factory which caused the, now impoverished, family to relocate to Saint Petersburg. His life took many twists and turns, including becoming technically a bigamist, but his main claim to fame is the table above. Any of us who have suffered through either high school, or college chemistry has become VERY familiar with it. It is the periodic table, and he "came up" with it in the 1860's while teaching at Saint Petersburg University. I will confess that the majority of it sails right over my non-scientific head, but I figure that if my dumb ass is being tested on this crap over a hundred years later, then it might be pretty important. Also, my science friends seem to think it is important, and I suppose, in this regard at least, I should trust their judgment. His other claim to fame affects me more personally on a semi-daily basis. While he was the Director of the Bureau of Weights and Measurements he was tasked with the job of formulating a new state standard for vodka. As a result, in 1894 new standards for the production of vodka were introduced, and from then on all vodka had to be produced with 40% alcohol by volume. This, much more, than the periodic table, has a more day to day influence on my life. But, it was for the chemistry work that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1906. He is also credited with introducing the metric system to Russia. So, for all those achievements Dmitri Mendeleev (February 8th, 1834-February 2nd, 1907, at the age of 72 of influenza), you are my (167th) hero of the day.

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