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A Well-Ordered Thing$
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Michael D. Gordin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172385

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172385.001.0001

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Fighting Revolutions with Faith

(p.198) Chapter 8 Disintegration
A Well-Ordered Thing
Michael D. Gordin
Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at Dmitrii Mendeleev's final years. The first six years of the twentieth century—the last six of Mendeleev's life—were difficult for both the chemist and the empire he served. Beginning with widespread student rebellion in St. Petersburg in 1899, the tsarist regime met with increasingly vocal opposition from a broader spectrum of society than ever before. Meanwhile, Mendeleev confronted a series of chemical “attacks” to his periodic law. He sought salvation in his age-old Holy Grail—the ether—and attempted to save his system by appropriating certain threats to tame others. This strategy, while temporarily effective in defending the periodic system, would fail to safeguard his vision of an unfettered, rational autocracy, the axis of the Imperial Turn. Ultimately, Mendeleev's last years were lived in the shadow of disintegrating systems—scientific and political—to which he had devoted his entire career.

Keywords:   Dmitrii Mendeleev, student rebellion, tsarist regime, periodic law, periodic system, autocracy

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