Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin

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Borodin, Aleksandr Porfirevich

(b. St Petersburg, Russia, 12 November 1833; d. St. Petersburg, 27 February 1887)


Borodin was the illegitimate son of the wife of an army doctor and an Imeretian prince. Between 1850 and 1856 he studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Medicine and Surgery, where he did his first research in chemistry under the direction of N. N. Zinin. In 1858 he defended his doctoral thesis, “Ob analogy fosfornoy myshyakovoy kislot v khimicheskom i toksikologicheskom otnosheny” (“Analogy of Phosphoric and Arsenic Acids from the Chemical and Toxicological Viewpoints”). From 1859 to 1862, he traveled in Italy, Germany, france, and Switzerland, sometimes in the company of Mendeleev and I. M. Sechonov. As a member of the Russian delegation, Borodin took part in the work of the First International Congress of Chemists in Karlsruche in 1860. From 1864, Borodin held a professorship at the Academy of Medicine and Surgery, where he helped to found medical courses for women.

Borodin’s most important research work was done in organic and physiologial chemistry. He was among the first to obtain fluorine benzol, and in 1861 he developed a method for the fluorination of organic compounds. In 1869 he proposed a method for obtaining bromine-producing fatty acids by the action of bromine on the silver salts of acids.

A number of Borodin’s studies (1863–1874) were devoted to an investigation of the polymerization and condensation of aldehydes. By the action of metallic sodium on valeric aldehyde (C5 H10 O), Borodin obtained the condensation products C10 H18 O and C20 H38 O3. He also showed that from valeric aldehyde, valeric acid and amyl alcohol are formed:

In studying the condensation products of acetaldehyde, Borodin found a substance having two kinds of alcohol aldehydes (aldol), which, dehydrating repidly, turn into crotonic aldehyde:

This aldol condensation reaction was subsequently employed by I.I. Ostromyslensky to obtain butadiene from alcohol.

In 1876 Borodin developed an azotometric method and apparatus for the quantitative determination of urea by measuring the amound of elementary nitrogen that is extracted from the urea by the action of excess sodium bromate (Br2 + NaOH). The Borodin method was widely adopted in biochemical and clinical labratories.

Borodin’s name is also well-known in music, chiefly as the composer of Prince Igor, the first heroic opera on a Russian theme (completed by Rimsky-Korsakov), and of the B-minor symphony and numerous songs.


I. Orginal Works. Borodin’s writings include “Über die Einwirkung des Natriums auf Veraldehys,” in Bulletin de l’Académie imperiale des sciences de St.-Pértersbourg, phys.-math. classe, 7 (1869), 463–474; “O polucheny produkta uplotnenia obyknovennogo aldegida” (“On Polymerization and Condensation Products of Common Aldehydes”), in zhurnal Russkogo Khimicheskogo obshchestva, 6 (1872), 209; “Über einen neuen Abkömmling des Valeraldendehyds,” in Berichte der deutschenchemischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin, 6 (1873), 982–985; Borodin’s major work on his methods of azotometric measurement of nitrogen in urea is Uproshchenni azometrichesky sposob opredelenia azota v primeneny k klinicheskomu opredelenniiu metamorfozy azotistykh veshchestv v organizme s sovremennoy tochki zrenia (St. Petersburg, 1886).

II. Secondary Literature. For biographical information, see N. A. Figurovski and Y. I. Soloviev, Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin (Moscow Leningrad. 1950).

Y. I. Soloviev

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Borodin, Alexander Porfirevich (1833–87) Russian composer and chemist, one of the Russian Five group of composers. His most popular works include the tone poem In the Steppes of Central Asia (1880) and the ‘Polovtsian Dances’ from his opera Prince Igor (completed after his death by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov). He incorporated Russian folk song into his compositions.