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Konovalov, Dmitry Petrovich

Konovalov, Dmitry Petrovich

(b Ivanovka, Ekaterinoslav guberniya [now Dnepropertrovsk oblast], Russia, 22 March 1856; d Leningrad, U.S.S.R., 6 January 1929)


Konovalov graduated from the Institute of Mines at St. Petersburg in 1878; from 1886 he was a professor at St. Petersburg University. From 1890 he studied under Mendeleev and his successor in the department of inorganic chemistry at St. Petersburg. Konovalov was the director of the St. Petersburg Institute of Mines from 1904 and from 1907 director of the government’s Department of Mines. He was deputy minister of trade and industry from 1908 until 1915. On 13 January 1923 he was elected a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. From 1922 until 1929 Konovalov was president of the Bureau of Weights and Measures in Leningrad and a member of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

Konovalov’s basic works are in the theory of solutions, kinetics, and catalysis. Developing Mendeleeev’s idea of the interaction between the solute and the solvent, he studied the vapor pressure of solutions of liquids in liquids. Prior to Konovalov’s work, science had only fragmentary information concerning the vapor pressure of liquid systems, provided by Renault and Roscoe. Konovalov defined the distillation conditions of a mixture of liquids in relationship to the shape of general vapor pressure curves for mixtures. In 1884 he established that, compared with the solution, the vapor contains an abundance of that component which, when added to the latter. At the points corresponding to the maximum and minimum of the curve expressing vapor pressure as a function of the percentage composition of a liquid, the vapor has precisely the same composition as the liquid. These laws, which entered the chemical literature as Konovalov’s laws, were confirmed in the later work of Duhem, Margules, Planck, and van der Waals.

Konovalov’s book Ob uprugosti para rastvorov (“On the Vapor Pressure of Solutions” [1884]) stated the scientific bases for the theory of the distillation of solutions, which made possible the industrial processes associated with the distillation of solutions.

In 1890 Konovalov gave a general thermodynamic definition of osmotic pressure, according to which osmotic equilibrium is “equality of the vapor pressure on both sides of a membrane”. This definition provides the basis for calculating the value of osmotic pressure in modern thermodynamics. Konovalov introduced the method of electroconductivity in the study of the interaction of the components of two- liquid systems (1890-1898). He discovered a special class of electrolytes, the solvoelectrolytes, which include aniline and acetic acid.

Konovalov initiated work on the physicochemical theory of catalysis. He introduced (1885) the concept of active surface area, which played an important role in the development of the theory of heterogeneous catalysis. A study of the formation and decomposition of complex esters in their liquid phase led Konovalov to a conclusion expressed in the formula for the rate of autocatalytic reactions,

where dx/dt represents the relative quantity of x ester decomposed in time t and xo is the initial concentration of acetic acid. An analogous formula was deduced by Ostwald (1888) for the saponification of methylacetate. The Ostwald-Konovalov formula, which expresses the fundamental law of autocatalysis, has become firmly fixed in the literature of chemical kinetics.

In 1923 Konovalov deduced a formula for calculating the heat of combustion of organic substances.

From 1890 to 1904 Konovalov was chairman of the chemistry division of the Russian Technical Society. He participated in the organization of the chemical section of the Russian pavilion at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago (1893). Konovalov’s Promyshlennost Soedionenykh Shtatov Severnoy Ameriki i sovremennye priemy khimicheskoy tekhnologii (“Industry in the United States of North America and modern Methods of Chemical Technology”; St. Petersburg, 1894) resulted from his trip to the United States.


1.Original Works. Konovalov’s writinigs include Ueber die Dampfspannungen der Flüssigkeitsgemische (Leipzig, 1881), his inaugural diss.; Ob Uprugosti pararastvorov (“On the Vapor Pressure of Solutions”; St. Petersburg, 1884; 3rd ed., Leningrad, 1928); Rol kontaktnykh deystvy v yavleniakh dissotsiatsii (“The Role of Contact Action in Dissociation Phenomenae”; St. Petersburg, 1885); “Nekotorye soobrazhenia, kasayushchiesya teorii zhidkostey” (“Some Considerations Concerning the Theory of Liquids”), in Zhurnal Russkogo fiziko-khimihyphen; cheskogo obshchestva, 18 (1886), 395-404; “O razlozhenii uksusnogo efira tretichnogo amilovogo spirta v zhidkom sosotoyanii” ( “on the Decomposition of Acetic Ester of Tertiary Amyl Alcohol in the Liquid State”), ibid., 346- 350; “O deystvii kislot na uksusny efir tretichnogo amilo v ogo spirta” (“On the Actiono of Acids on Acetic Ester of Tertiary Amyl Alcohol”), ibid., 20 (1888), 586-594; “O prirode osmoticheskogo davlenia” (“On the Nature of Osmotic Pressure”), ibid., 22 (1890), 71-72 ; “Ob elektroprovodnosti rastvorov” (“On the Electroconductivity of Solutions”), ibid .,24 (1892), 336-338, 440-450, and 25 (1893), 192-201; “O teplovornoy sposobnosti uglerodistykh veshchestv” (“On the Calorific Value of carbon Substances”), ibid., 50 (1918), 81-105; “On the Calorific Value of Carbon Compounds,” in Journal of the Chemical Society, 123 (1923), 2184-2202; and Materialy i protsessy khimicheskoy tekhnologii (“Materials and Processes of chemical Technology”), 2 vols. (Petrograd, 1924; Leningrad, 1925).

II. Secondary Literature. See A. A. Baykov, Dmitry Petrovich Konovalov (Leningrad, 1928); and Y. I. Soloviev and A. Y. Kipnis, Dmitry Petrovioch Konovalov (1856-1929) (Moscow, 1964).

Y. I. Soloviev

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