At the age of eight, at the boarding school where he studied, Sasha Butlerov conceived a passion for chemical experiments. Once he and his friend were preparing a mixture for the Bengal light and it suddenly exploded, scorching the hair of the young researchers. An enraged school teacher put the inscription “Great Chemist” on Sasha’s chest and subjected him to the public ridicule. Had that teacher known he was a prophet and at the age of twenty-three, Butlerov delivered lectures at the Kazan University; at the age of twenty-five, he became a doctor of sciences in chemistry and physics; and at the age of thirty-two, he was appointed the rector of the university. He left a whole school of chemists, many of whom became the pride of science just like him.
Alexander Butlerov’s scientific contributions are vast and indisputable — he developed the structural theory of the chemical structure of matter. Butlerov was the first to announce the chemical rather than mechanical structure of molecules, found a connection between the structure and chemical properties of the complex organic compound, explained the phenomenon of isomerism, indicating that isomers are compounds that have the same elementary composition but a different chemical structure. He artificially created a sweetening agent, predicted the existence of isotopes, and suggested that the atom is divisible. By the way, Butlerov created his structural theory in the middle of the 19th century, hence the term. Previously, instead of “structure” the scholars used to say “constitution,” but the Russian government could not stand the word “constitution” even when applied to the structure of substances.
Indisputable are Butlerov’s contributions as a teacher because he developed a new methodology to teach students with laboratory classes.
Butlerov’s interests went beyond mere chemistry, they were vast and diverse. He liked treating people, studied butterflies, kept bees. Extraordinarily intelligent, Butlerov was also very strong physically. Once he came to a friend and missed him, so he left him a sort of an advertising card – a poker bent into the letter “B.”