Institute of Chemistry (up to 2014 – Department of Chemistry) of St. Petersburg State University was founded June 18, 1929. Though in reality it has its origins in 1916, when the at the department of Physics and Mathematics of the Imperial University of Petrograd ( the name of St. Petersburg State University in the period from 1914 to 1917) was organized chemical section. On this section students learned mathematics, hermodynamics, physical chemistry, as well as courses on the main sections of chemistry. The Department of Chemistry was established on the basis of this section in large building on Vasilievsky Island.
However, May 8, 1930 due to reorganization of the University Department of Chemistry has been closed. In September 1932 University returned to the faculty system, and Department of Chemistry was rebuilt. In the same year with close cooperation with university academic staff was organized Research Institute of Chemistry at Leningrad University.
January 20, 1940 Mendeleev readings were established by Board of Russian Chemical Sosiety and the Academic Council of the Leningrad State University. Mendeleev readings are solemn annual reports of leading scientists of all areas of chemistry and related sciences (physics, biology and biochemistry). On first Mendeleev reading on March 17, 1941 academician V. G. Hlopin made the report ”Transformation of the elements and the periodic law”. Mendeleev readings held annually since 1941, this tradition was interrupted only once due to World War II.
In postwar years at the Department were established first in USSR Department of Radiochemistry (1945), which began to prepare specialists for scientific programs related to the creation and development of nuclear weapons and, later, nuclear energy; Department of Theory of Solutions/Department of Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics (1950); the first and only in the USSR Department of Quantum Chemistry (1967).
Since the 1980s, laboratories of the Department of Chemistry are located in the suburbs of St. Petersburg – Peterhof.
The Institute of Chemistry includes 14 departments:
- Analytical Chemistry
- Quantum Chemistry
- Colloid Chemistry
- Laser Chemistry and Laser Materials
- General and Inorganic Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Physical Organic Chemistry
- Physical Chemistry
- Macromolecular Chemistry
- Chemistry of Natural Compounds
- Solid State Chemistry
- Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics
From 2011 till now the Dean of the Department of Chemistry (now – the Director of the Institute of Chemistry) is Professor, Dr. Irina A. Balova.
History of the Department of Chemistry (Institute of Chemistry) is closely connected with the life and work of many outstanding scientists, brief information about some of them is listed below.
Vyacheslav E. Tishchenko (1861–1941) is an organic chemist, corresponding member (1928), academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1935), laureate of the State Prize (1941). He was an assistant of Dmitry I. Mendeleev and taught courses on various branches of technical and analytical chemistry at St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) University. Since 1934 he was Director of the Research Institute of Chemistry of Leningrad University. His major works are devoted to the study of the composition of turpentine and other natural fluids. V. Tishchenko roposed industrial process for the synthesis of camphor from turpentine and developed a new formulation of glass for chemical glassware, retained its importance to the present. He proposed a new type flasks for washing and drying gases (Tishchenko flask). He discovered disproportionation reaction of aldehydes to form esters under the influence of aluminum alkoxides (Tishchenko reaction).
Alexey E. Favorsky (1860–1945) is an organic chemist, academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1929), laureate of the Stalin Prize for the development of industrial method of isoprene rubber synthesis (1941). His works devoted to unsaturated compounds become a theoretical basis for the industrial synthesis of rubber in the USSR. In 1888 for the first time he obtained a vinyl ester of methylacetylene. Fifty years later in 1939–1940. together with his disciple M. F. Shostakovsky he developed conditions of synthesis of vinyl esters from cheaper acetylene (method of Favorsky-Shostakovsky). This method was introduced in the industry to produce plastics, synthetic fibers, paints, adhesives and other polymers. In 1895 he found a new type of isomerism of α-haloketones to carboxylic acids (Favorsky rearrangement), that initiated synthesis of number of acrylic acids. In 1900–1905 he discovered a method of synthesis of tertiary acetylenic alcohols (acetylene-allene rearrangement, Favorsky reaction). On the basis of this reaction a method for producing isoprene and chloroprene rubbers was developed.
Vitaly G. Khlopin (1890–1950) is radiochemist, one of the founders of Soviet radiochemistry and radium industry; one of the founders of the Radium Research Institute; founder of Soviet radiochemistry school; academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1939). In 1945 he headed the the first Soviet radiochemistry department Lenigrad University, where he conducted the first in the Soviet Union lectures on radioactivity. He received the first radium samples in USSR. He discovered the law of the micro-distribution between the solid and liquid phases (Khlopin law). He studied the migration of radioactive elements in the crust and developed a method for determining of absolute age of rocks on the basis of data about their radioactivity.
Boris P. Nikolsky (1900–1990) is radio and physical chemist, academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences , the creator of the theory of ion-exchange glass electrodes. His main works are devoted to the physical chemistry of solutions. He was engaged in researches of ion exchange processes between aqueous solutions and various solids, in particular ionites. The theory of such processes developed by B. P. Nikolsky, is applied in ion exchange chromatography and other areas. In 1932 he developed the method of potentiometric titration. In 1932–1937 he proposed the theory of ion exchange for glass electrode, which was confirmed experimentally in 1951. He also completed a large work in the field of theoretical and applied radiochemistry. Since 1946 B. P. Nikolsky is one of the leaders of the establishment and development of industrial plutonium technology in USSR. Under his leadership, researches for improving the yield and quality of plutonium and reducing emissions were carried out. Since 1939, almost fifty years he was the head of the Department of Physical Chemistry. In 1961–1963 he was the dean of the Department of Chemistry at Leningrad State University.
Mikhail M. Schulz (1919–2006) is a prominent scientist in the field of physical chemistry, thermodynamics, chemistry and electrochemistry of glass, membrane electrochemistry; academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1979, since 1991 academician of Russian Academy of Sciences). Main scientific achievements of M. M. Schulz are connected with the study of properties of oxide glasses and melts, solving of a wide range of theoretical and applied problems in ionometry, especially pH-metry. Second major line of his work is the study of fundamental problems of the thermodynamic theory of heterogeneous systems. He clarified the formulation of the Le-Chatelier–Brown principle, found thermodynamic regularities of phase transition and chemical reactions in closed systems, developed methods for studying complex systems forming solid solutions. One of the major technical developments of headed by M. M. Schulz Institute of Silicate Chemistry of Russian Academy of Sciences was the creation of materials for thermal protection of the space shuttle “Buran”. In 1967–1972 he was the dean of the Department of Chemistry at Leningrad State University.