Mendeleev’s Chemicals

Memorial Apartment Museum of Dmitri Mendeleev

Published: July 12, 2014

Free (small donations encouraged/expected)
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:00-16:00
Twelve Collegia Building, Mendeleevskaya Liniya on Vasilievskiy Island
Must call in advance to organize a visit
+7 (812) 328-9744

Dimitri Mendeleev, best known as the creator of the Periodic Table of Elements, is a Russian national hero and one of the foremost thinkers of the 20th century. His memory and the legacy of his work is well preserved in his Memorial Apartment Museum at St. Petersburg State University (SPbSU). The apartment where the museum is housed was the home of Mendeleev and his family from 1866-1890 while he was a professor at SPbSU. The museum contains several exhibits that reveal to patrons details of Mendeleev’s life from childhood to his death including his two marriages and most famous achievement – the creation of the Periodic Table of Elements.

Cheese Factory Letter
Cheese Factory Letter

It is sometimes said that the organizational pattern came to him in a dream, but the museum staff believes the more likely story that the vision spontaneously came upon him while reading a letter from one of his family’s properties – a cheese factory – and as proof the museum enshrines a copy of the cheese factory letter on which the very first sketches of his periodic table were made. The highlight of the museum is Mendeleev’s study, which has been meticulously restored through photographic evidence to the exact state in which he used it. The study is home to a large library with not only scientific texts and research journals, but the entire works of adventure novelist Alexandre Dumas (in the original French) that Mendeleev would read when he needed a mental rest!

photo 1-2One of the other interesting pieces in the museum is the tablecloth on which dozens of signatures are embroidered. When friends visited Mendeleev, he would have them sign their names in various colors of chalk on a black tablecloth and then his wife or daughter would stitch over the signature to ensure its longevity. The cloth includes several famous Russians, such as poet Alexander Blok! My personal favorite exhibit is the small display on Mendeleev’s 1876 trip to Pennsylvania as part of his research on petroleum that led to his book The Oil Industry in the North American State of Pennsylvania and the Caucasus.

The museum staff is cheerful and energetic. Our guide spoke English well and was excited to tell us the little known facts of the great scientist’s life. The standard guided tour lasts about 40 minutes. Although small, the details of the museum could occupy your time for the better part of 2 hours if you choose to admire every exhibit.

The Memorial Apartment Museum of Dimitri Mendeleev is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in science, Russian history of the late 19th century, or just want a short, stimulating break from the hustle of the Hermitage! The museum is small, so groups of 10 or less are best, but ask about size when you call and make your reservation.


About the author

Samantha Guthrie

Samantha Guthrie attended the University of Virginia, class of 2016. At the time she wrote for this site, she was a double major in Foreign Affairs and Russian and Eastern European Studies. A Boren Scholarship recipient, she planed to work for the US government in a career related to national defense intelligence or international aid. Her research focused on the relationship between Russians and Caucasians. She spent spring and summer 2014 in St. Petersburg with SRAS Russian Studies Abroad.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

View all posts by: Samantha Guthrie