Military Review

Organic Chemist Vladimir Markovnikov

Organic Chemist Vladimir Markovnikov

Vladimir Vasilyevich Markovnikov was the first and most talented student of the famous Russian chemist Alexander Butlerov. Vladimir Vasilyevich's observant analytical mind, experimental skill, the ability to broadly generalize and synthesize, in the shortest period allowed him to become the best follower of Butlerov, his associate in the development of the chemical structure of organic compounds.

Vladimir Markovnikov was born in the village of Chernorechye near Nizhny Novgorod on December 25 of 1837. His father, Vasily Vasilyevich Markovnikov, was an officer of the battalion of the Belevsky Eger regiment. Some time after the birth, his father took Vladimir to the village of Ivanovskoye, Knyagininsky district, where he spent all his childhood as a future scientist. The boy learned the letter early, but he read without any system from the “Battle of the Russians with the Kabardians” and “Yeruslan Lazarevich” to the tactical instructions on his father’s writing desk. In addition, he easily mastered German and French.

Vladimir Vasilievich received a secondary education at the Alexandrovsky Noble Institute of Nizhny Novgorod. After graduating from the institute in 1856, Markovnikov entered the law faculty of the Imperial Kazan University. He studied at the Cameral Department, studied chemistry, technology and agriculture. On a par with lawyers, the cameramen listened to most of the courses in the legal field - political economy, public law, finance, statistics. Vladimir Vasilievich recalled: “I received the basics for understanding and studying phenomena in the field of industrial and economic, which I absolutely would not have given the faculty of natural. I often had to use this knowledge. ”

In the third year, students of the Cameral Department began practical work in the chemical laboratory of the university, at the same time they began to lecture in chemistry on a young Butlerov who returned from a foreign business trip. Practical lessons and lessons of Alexander Mikhailovich made a strong impression on Markovnikov, determining his future life path. Many years later, he will write: “This meeting decided my fate. Instead of a technician or a lawyer, as I suggested at first, I became a chemist. ” Butlerov was an exemplary teacher, always ready to answer any question of each student or laboratory employee. Markovnikov has maintained a lifelong friendship with him. While still studying, with the consent of Butlerov, Vladimir Vasilyevich published a lithographed course of lectures on organic chemistry given by Alexander Mikhailovich.

In 1860, Markovnikov graduated from Kazan University, receiving a degree in the chamber department. At the request of Butlerov, he was left at the university, and in the same year he was appointed laboratory assistant at the chemical laboratory. In the same period, Alexander Mikhailovich made a revolution in science - he worked on his famous theory of chemical structure. And his student sought to substantiate historically the need for new views, wrote later work “To stories teachings on the chemical structure. "

In parallel, Vladimir Vasilyevich tried to find new experimental confirmations of Butlerov's theory, worked on the isomerism of butyric acids. Isomers are complex substances with the same molecular weight, made from the same components, but with different chemical and physical properties. For more complex compounds, there is a greater number of isomers. The theory of structure just made it possible to find out how many they can be. To verify the correctness of the conclusions of Butlerov's theory, it was necessary to obtain the largest possible number of isomers predicted by it. That's why Markovnikov and engaged in obtaining isomers of acids.

Meanwhile, the position of laboratory assistant, receiving an extremely small salary, forced Vladimir Vasilyevich to look for additional earnings. He began giving lessons at home, which was quite common at that time. One of his students was Lyubov Dmitrievna Rychkova, the granddaughter of the famous geographer Peter Rychkov. Gradually, a friendship arose between the student and the teacher, imperceptibly developed into love. The wedding took place in 1864 year. Lyubov Dmitrievna spoke easily in three foreign languages ​​and became for the scientist not only a wonderful wife, but also an indispensable assistant. Subsequently, she did for Markovnikov translations of foreign articles, rewrote his works, accompanied her husband on trips.

In 1862, in connection with Butlerov’s disease, Vladimir Vasilyevich was commissioned to lecture on inorganic, and a year later, analytical chemistry. At 1863, Markovnikov passed the exams for a Master of Chemistry, and two years later he submitted a dissertation to the commission on “Isomerism of organic compounds”, which he soon brilliantly defended. After that, he was seconded abroad for two years.

Initially, the Markovnikovs visited Berlin, where Vladimir Vasilyevich worked for some time in the laboratory of the famous chemist Adolf Bayer. Then they moved to Heidelberg, and the scientist visited the laboratory of the young Emil Erlenmeyer - Comrade Butlerov. In May, the 1866 Markovnikovs returned to Berlin again to Adolf Bayer, and a month later - again to Heidelberg. Finally, having been in Switzerland, the scientist settled in the Leipzig laboratory of Hermann Kolbe, a fierce critic of the theory of chemical structure. Unlike other interns of the famous German organic chemist Markovnikov was in a special position. The head of the laboratory himself called him Herr Doktor. This was by no means a mockery or a formality due to the presence of Vladimir Vasilyevich of the academic title. Markovnikov came to Germany with established views, he was a head taller than foreign specialists in many key issues of organic chemistry. It is known that he was not afraid to openly object to more titled chemists, often arguing with Kolbe himself. According to eyewitnesses, these disputes rarely ended in favor of German scientists.

Remembering, Markovnikov described the state of the German school of theoretical organic chemistry in this way: “My position in the laboratory was somewhat different from the others. For three years now, as I was a master and worked on topics of interest to me. When I arrived in Germany in the first year, I was convinced that the Kazan laboratory was far ahead in theory of all local ones, and the lecture courses were too simple. I also rarely had to use the practical instructions of professors. In German laboratories, I stayed only because all my life abroad is folded so that time is more productive. ”

The scientist independently conducted experimental studies on the properties and structure of hydroxyisobutyric and isobutyric acids, developed the concept of the mutual influence of atoms in chemical compounds, which was a deepening of Butlerov's theory. After Vladimir Vasilyevich's overseas business trip was extended in 1867, he made a number of trips around Western Europe in order to become more familiar with the local chemical industry. In August 1867, Markovnikov was at the World Exhibition in Paris, and at the same time, the Council of Kazan University elected him an assistant professor in the department of chemistry. Having visited the congress of doctors and naturalists in Frankfurt, without waiting for the end of the business trip, the talented chemist returned to Kazan and replaced Alexander Butlerov in the teaching field, who in turn went abroad.

In the spring of 1869, a famous doctoral dissertation by Markovnikov entitled “Materials on the mutual influence of atoms in chemical compounds” was defended at the University of Kazan. The work of Vladimir Vasilyevich in a new way set the main problems of theoretical chemistry. Having arisen on the basis of the structural theory, the new doctrine of the mutual influence of atoms brought to the fore the issues of determining the internal mechanism of chemical reactions, the processes of combining atoms with each other. Considering the processes of intramolecular displacements of atoms, it was possible to establish which specific isomer will be obtained under the given experimental conditions, what current a particular chemical reaction will take. Markovnikov wrote A.M. Butlerov: “I consider it decent to devote a little work to you, a highly respected mentor, because the thoughts held in him are a further development of what you set up .... If something new is contained in it, then the birth of this would be impossible without the assumptions laid down by you. ”

Alexander Mikhailovich Butlerov was the first opponent in the dispute and gave Markovnikov's dissertation the highest rating. Considering its extremely important theoretical significance, he expressed the wish that the works of Vladimir Vasilyevich be translated into some foreign language. Markovnikov responded to this: “If the thoughts I have expressed are of interest, then everyone can take advantage of this Russian composition.” Some time later, Butlerov moved to St. Petersburg, and Vladimir Vasilyevich was given the supervision of reading all the courses and the laboratory. In May 1869, the University Council elected him an extraordinary professor, and in the spring of 1870 at the age of just 33 years - an ordinary professor in the Department of Chemistry.

However, Markovnikov did not stay long in Kazan. After the adoption of the new Charter of Universities in 1863, as well as the entry three years later as Minister of Public Education, Count D.A. Tolstoy, the situation in scientific institutions began to change for the worse. Vladimir Vasilievich wrote: “The minister began to use any chance that, without paying attention to scientific merit, to survive the old professors, if these persons were considered harmful from an administrative point of view. All the best scientific forces turned out to be harmful for the simple reason that any decent scientist, as a rule, is an independent person and will not compromise his superiors with his superiors ... ” The outstanding biologist and anatomist, Professor Peter Lesgaft, did not sacrifice his convictions. In October 1871 he was illegally dismissed from Kazan University. In protest against the massacre, seven professors filed an appeal with the Board and lost their jobs over the following months. The resignation of Vladimir Vasilievich took place on November 18, on the same day he was elected an ordinary professor of the young University of Novorossiysk. Here he found a fairly good for those times chemical laboratory, founded by the famous chemist Nikolai Sokolov, who lived here for six years for health reasons. From the end of 1871 to 1873, Markovnikov worked in Odessa in the year, and then, after long hesitations, he moved to Moscow.

The reason for Markovnikov’s doubts was obvious - there was only one old chemical laboratory at Moscow University, built back in the 1838 year. Vladimir Vasilyevich understood that he would have to invest a lot of effort and work in order to bring this room into a condition suitable for the implementation of his extensive scientific concepts. He believed that for the proper organization of the teaching process and scientific experiments, the most expedient way out is the construction of a new building of a chemical laboratory at Moscow University. The rector promised to support him, but due to the lack of sufficient funding, construction began only in 1885. Almost fifteen years have passed since his move to the capital, before the scientist’s plan was realized. The opening of the chemical laboratory took place on September 14 1887 of the year.

Up to this point in time, it was believed that chemistry, as a science, is absent in Moscow. Vladimir Vasilyevich breathed new life, both in the case of the formulation of scientific research, and in the matter of teaching. In the organization of scientific work and practical classes in organic chemistry, Markovnikov highlighted the independent research of students and young researchers. The great chemist liked to express in the system of pedagogical techniques he used to express in colorful aphorisms, for example, he said: “Let students go to a deeper place - of those who come up, there will be a sense.” He welcomed when his students themselves sorted out foreign chemistry journals or made independent decisions in the course of completing assignments without prompting managers. Such innovations of Markovnikov were not slow to affect the most positive way. In his laboratory began to gather a group of young people eager to engage in chemistry. In addition, the Moscow Laboratory of Vladimir Vasilyevich became the first in Russia, which opened its doors to female students. Among the first works created within its walls was the work “On the production of normal methyl propylene” by Yulia Vsevolodovna Lermontova, the first woman chemist in our country and a relative of the famous poet.

Markovnikov himself, along with experimental research, continued to develop his theoretical concept, which he set forth for the first time in his doctoral dissertation. He found a number of patterns in reactions with hydrohalic acids, formulated his generalizations in the “Markovnikov rule,” well known to all chemists.

In the early nineties, Vladimir Vasilyevich switched to a new extensive cycle of experimental research - analysis of the composition of Caucasian oil. From this point in time to the end of his days, the study of oil chemistry was the main priority in the scientific activities of the famous scientist. It should be noted that at first this direction in the works of Markovnikov did not meet with understanding among the majority of Russian scientists. It was regretted about his new enthusiasm, it was said that, in this way, he “changed pure chemistry”. Markovnikov himself believed that scientific research of this kind was the responsibility of Russian natural scientists. He said: “It has always been incomprehensible to me why our naturalists do not wish to choose for their studies such scientific questions for which the nature of Russia would serve. Then we would not be witnesses of the fact that Russia was studied, and even now it is often studied, by visiting foreign academics. ”

The first work of Vladimir Vasilievich on a new theme was called “The Study of Caucasian Oil” and was published in 1881 in the journal of the Russian Chemical Society. In 1882 A.M. Butlerov nominated Markovnikov to become a corresponding member of the Physics and Mathematics Department of the Academy of Sciences, but his candidacy was outgrown by a conservative-minded part of the academicians. In 1883, Markovnikov together with V.N. Ogloblinin presented a large article at the University of St. Petersburg at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics - a collection of all his work on the study of Baku oil in the Moscow laboratory. In this work, the authors come to the conclusion that Caucasian oil contains at least eighty percent of the unknown hydrocarbons. At the suggestion of Markovnikov, they were called “naphthenes”. In addition, the chemist found out that a significant part of the oil is oxygen compounds of neutral and acid character. The Russian Chemical Society honored the presented work of Markovnikov and Ogloblin with the prize of Professor Il'enkov. Vladimir Vasilyevich's great merit was that in order to determine the position of naphthenes among other classes of organic compounds, he had to isolate from the Caucasian oil a huge amount of individual compounds, having studied and described their chemical and physical properties. At the same time, to determine the structure of naphthenes, the chemist synthesized a significant number of different representatives of the polymethylene series, while developing several original methods for the synthesis of hydrocarbons.

In 1892, Vladimir Vasilievich published a second major article called: “Naphthenes and their derivatives in the system of organic compounds”. In this work, he expanded the concept of naphthenes, indicated that many previously known natural compounds, in particular, inositol, quercite, terpenes and derivatives from them, belong to the group of naphthenes. There he first raised the question of the possibility of the existence of other cycles in the oil along with six-membered hydrocarbons. The following year, Markovnikov managed to successfully complete the work on the synthesis of a seven-membered ring.

At the same time, because of the previous opposition views, the scientist was offered to take over the head of the laboratory. Markovnikov was very upset by the removal from the leadership of the department, but continued to work at the university. And in 1899, he made an extremely important assumption about the possibility of the presence of methyl pentamethylene in Caucasian oil. This conclusion was later brilliantly confirmed. For his outstanding results in the field of oil research, the International Oil Congress awarded Vladimir Vasilyevich 1900 a gold medal in the year. According to the recall of the famous Italian scientist Stanislao Cannicaro, Markovnikov introduced to “pure science a new type of carbon compounds, which will henceforth be forever linked to his name”.

Like all great scholars, Markovnikov was not a man locked in his profession. He was keenly interested in the problems of geology and mineral chemistry. He dealt with issues of the presence of glauber salt in the Volga salt lakes, as well as issues of the origin of such lakes. In the summer of 1881, at his own expense, Vladimir Vasilyevich took a trip to the south-east of Russia, where he thoroughly studied the situation of the Russian salt industry. In 1884, a scientist, on the instructions of the Ministry of State Property, made another trip, to the Astrakhan province, to local salt lakes. The report on the results of the expedition was published in the Mining Journal. Later Markovnikov wrote a detailed report on the origin of salt and bitter lakes in southern Russia on the example of Lake Tambukan. Simultaneously with explaining the reasons for their appearance, Vladimir Vasilievich presented the results of a variety of analyzes of brine and salts.

Along with the scientific work, Vladimir Vasilyevich led a wide social activity. Pereinachivaya Nekrasov, he loved to repeat: "You can not be a scientist, but a citizen must be." He tried to bring his enormous knowledge in the field of chemistry out of the laboratory walls. Knowing well the needs of domestic industry, he advocated its development, tried to bring each discovery to industrial application. In a speech delivered in 1880, the scientist insisted on the need for closer cooperation between science and industry for their mutual success. Markovnikov said: “No knowledge in the state can progress if it does not find application in the life of the people. On the contrary, it will remain a luxury item. ” It is not by chance that many pupils of Vladimir Vasilyevich successfully worked in oil fields, chemical plants, dyeing plants, printed plants and many other plants. The scientist sincerely rejoiced, seeing that his graduates are engaged in the production sphere, successfully competing with technologists, establishing, in a similar way, the link between pure science and production. Proving the need for further development of the chemical industry in Russia, Markovnikov said: “For a moment, let us imagine that a war has begun with the western neighbors. The supply — land and sea — of both processed chemical dye products and raw ones has completely stopped ... We do not want to present the picture of disasters in which all of Russia's industry will then end up. ” A chemical scientist devoted a lot of time to environmental issues. They were written recommendations on the regulation of waste for different types of enterprises.

Vladimir Vasilievich was also known as an energetic leader in the process of popularizing and disseminating technical and scientific knowledge. Of great importance are the works of a scientist on the history of science, assessing the role of Butlerov in the development of the theory of chemical structure. He became one of the founders of the Moscow branch of the Russian Technical Society and took an active part in its work, being the chairman of the chemical engineering department, initiated the publication of a journal in chemistry in Russian. In 1884, on the initiative of Markovnikov, a chemical commission was organized in the Society of Lovers of Anthropology, Natural Science and Ethnography. Initially it was based on the physical department, and later turned into an independent department. For eighteen years (not counting the two-year break), Vladimir Vasilyevich was its chairman. In connection with the 150 anniversary of the founding of the first in our country Lomonosov chemical laboratory, Markovnikov, thanks to his persistence, organized a number of meetings under the Society dedicated to Mikhail Vasilyevich and the history of the birth of chemistry in Russia. As a result of this public undertaking, the popular Lomonosov Collection appeared, which is one of the most important documents on the history of the development of chemical laboratories and departments in our country.

The scope of Markovnikov’s public activity was unusually wide, it can be compared with the scope of another great scientist and citizen of Russia, Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev. When the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 began, Vladimir Vasilyevich began active work on creating sanitary aid for the units of the active army, engaged in the purchase and manufacture of disinfectants. He compiled the widely used “Instructions for disinfecting sanitary trains, hospitals, barracks and battlefields”. In July, 1877 Markovnikov was seconded to the Danube and to Romania to organize on-site disinfection work. It is extremely characteristic of a patriot scientist that he flatly refused a monetary reward of four hundred rubles in gold each month - an amount that was put to all professors sent to the theater of operations. During the cholera epidemic, Markovnikov conducted analyzes of various varieties of Russian tar, wanting to replace imported carbolic acid. In the 1878 year, during the outbreak of the “Vetlyana plague”, Vladimir Vasilyevich, together with Dr. Otradinsky, published the famous brochure “The Plague in Russia”, and also compiled “Practical guidelines for disinfection”. In the same year, during an inspection visit to the Kursk hospital, Markovnikov caught typhus. He was seriously ill, but the illness was overcome.

Vigorous social and scientific activities Markovnikov continued until the very end of his life. In December 1903, Vladimir Vasilyevich delivered an extensive report on his latest scientific achievements at the Petersburg Chemical Society. And 11 February 1904 Vladimir Vasilievich was gone. A middle-aged scientist died in Moscow from a cold. After himself, the brilliant chemist left the famous Markovnikov School, many of whose students — M.I. Konovalov, V.N. Ogloblin, I.A. Kablukov, N.M. Kizhner, A.M. Berkenheim - later became world famous scientists.

In 1901, at the celebration of the 40 anniversary of his teaching and research activities, Vladimir Vasilyevich, accepting the diploma of an honorary member of Kazan University, delivered a response speech: “I will dare to conclude to turn to young leaders and scholars with one piece of advice ... To not experience in the future bitter annoyance and moral torment, never postpone until tomorrow what you can accomplish today. I would be happy if my words and my experience led, at least some of those present here, to adhere to this old truth. ”

Based on the book of K. Manolov "Great Chemists".
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  1. kaktus
    kaktus 11 February 2014 07: 08
    Great person! hi
  2. Mizhgan
    Mizhgan 11 February 2014 13: 52
    What is the difference between the USSR and modern Russia? But very simple. The mongrel Collapsed the USSR - BUT PUTIN restores the country's former power - even more. Surpasses in most issues on a global scale. Of course, the polemics about gas and oil prices will begin (conditionally dependent on the contract, Bax.)) ..... But, just we are not dependent on the world community - We will block the channel ... And Lavrov will have work .. (Well, other figures, foreign policy, work will increase)
  3. Alex
    Alex 1 July 2014 23: 30
    It is extremely characteristic for the patriotic scientist that he flatly refused a monetary reward of four hundred rubles in gold every month - the amount that was put to all the professors sent to the theater of operations.

    The selflessness of the true sons of Russia is amazing. Markovnikov, Butlerov, Mendeleev - not to count professors who considered duty to be a service to the Motherland, and not for money, but at the behest of the heart. I wonder how many current academics will do something for the country, not for grants, but for free?