Chugaev, Lev Aleksandrovich

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Chugaev, Lev Aleksandrovich

(b. Moscow, Russia, 17 October 1873; d. Gryazovets, Vologoskaya oblast, U. S. S.R., 23 September 1922),


Chugaev, who studied under Zelinski, graduated from Moscow University in 1895. From 1896 to 1904 he was chairman of the chemistry section of the Bacteriology Institute in Moscow; from 1904 to 1908 professor of chemistry at the Moscow Technical College; and from 1908 until 1922 professor of inorganic chemistry at St. Petersburg (later Leningrad) University, while simultaneously professor of organic chemistry at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology. At Chugaev’s initiative, the Institute for the Study of Platinum and Precious Metals was created in 1918; he served as its director and carried out the organizational details of the development of the platinum industry in the Soviet Union until 1922. He was one of the founders of the Russian Scientific and Technical Institute of Nutrition (1918) and of the Institute of Applied Chemistry (1919). Among Chugaev’s students were I. I. Chernyaev, A. A. Grinberg, V. G. Khlopin, V. V. Lebedinsky, and F. V. Tserevitinov.

Chugaev’s research covered problems in biochemistry and in organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. In his first series of experiments in biochemistry and bacteriology special attention was given to the action of poisons on microorganisms, to the physiology of phosphorescent bacteria, and to triboluminescence.

In 1899 Chugaev began a series of experiments on the chemistry of terpenes; this work was generalized in his master’s dissertation, “Issledovania v oblasti terpenov i kamfory” (“Research in the Field of Terpenes and Camphor,” 1903). Using the fundamental result of this research, the development of the xanthogen method, Chugaev first synthesized a number of terpene hydrocarbons. His method is one of dehydration of complex unsaturated alcohols without concomitant isomerization. For example, the action of CS2 on the sodium salt of the alcohol C10H19ONa gives the xanthate , which can be converted into the ether with methyl iodide and then, by careful heating, made to yield the corresponding hydrocarbon, C10H18. Chugaev’s method was a classic of organic chemistry and has been applied successfully for decades.

A study of the optical properties of organic compounds allowed Chugaev to formulate in 1908 the “rule of distance,” according to which the optical activity of a compound increases as a function of the decrease of the distance of the inactive part of the molecule from its asymmetric center. In 1911 he discovered a new type of rotary dispersion that is conditioned by the internal superimposition of the opposing optical effects of the individual asymmetric hydrocarbon atoms in a molecule of the compound.

The work of Chugaev and his students was in two areas: (1) the synthesis and stereochemistry of the inner complex salts of copper, nickel, silver, cobalt, and the platinum metals and (2) a study of the specific reactions of the platinum metals that can be used for their separation and purification. His studies of the inner complex metallic salts notably included experiments with the organic imide complexes of copper, nickel, and silver and the stable α-dioxime complexes of nickel, copper, iron, cobalt, platinum, and palladium. In 1906 Chugaev demonstrated that the most stable organic inner complex salts contain five- or six-member cycles; he concluded in 1908 that the formation of cyclically structured complex compounds depends on the stereochemical configuration of their components.

Chugaev established the structure of the isomers of divalent platinum with organic sulfides and isonitriles, and he investigated isomerism in the complex compounds of platinum with nitriles, hydrazine, and hydroxylamine. In 1920 he synthesized the tetravalent platinum pentamine chloride [Pt(NH3)5 Cl]3, which had been predicted on Alfred Werner’s coordination theory.

In 1905 Chugaev introduced dimethylglyoxime as a new and sensitive analytical reagent for divalent nickel. This initiated the use of organic reagents into analytical chemistry. Chugaev also discovered specific sensitive organic reagents for iridium (malachite green), platinum (carbylamine), and osmium (thiocarbamide). The last reaction is highly specific and one in which the metals of the platinum group do not interfere.

Chugaev’s research indicated the valuable qualities of chelates, compounds that are formed by the interaction of organic reagents and metal ions. These compounds often possess properties that are important from an analytical point of view: sharp color, insignificant solubility in water, good solubility in organic solvents, and so forth. Because of these properties they are widely used in modern analytic chemistry.


I. Original Works. A collection of Chugaev’s works is Izbrannye trudy (“Selected Works”), 3 vols. (Moscow, 1954–1962). Vol. II includes a full bibliography of Chugaev’s works (429 titles).

II. Secondary Literature. On Chugaev and his work see I. I. Chernyaev, “Lev Aleksandrovich Chugaev (1873–1922),” in Lyudi russkoy nauki (“People of Russian Science”), vol. I (Moscow, 1948); L. A. Chugaev. Sbornik rechey i doladov, posvyashchennykh yego pamyati (“L. A. Chugaev. A Collection of Speeches and Papers Dedicated to His Memory,” Leningrad, 1924); G. B. Kauffman, “Terpenes to Platinum. The Chemical Career of Lev Aleksandrovich Chugaev,” in Journal of Chemical Education, 40, no. 12 (1963), 656–664; and O. Y. Zvyagintsev, Y. I. Soloviev, and P. I. Staroselsky, Lev Aleksandrovich Chugaev (Moscow, 1965).

Y. I. Soloviev