Zinin, Nikolay Nikolaevich

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(b. Shusha, Transcaucasia [now Azerbaydzhan S.S.R.], Russia, 25 August 1812; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 18 February 1880)


After graduating from Kazan University in 1836, Zinin studied abroad from 1837 to 1840 and worked in Liebig’s laboratory at Giessen for about a year. From 1841 to 1847 he was professor of technical chemistry at Kazan University and, from 1848 until his retirement in 1874, was professor of chemistry at the St. Petersburg Academy of Medicine and Surgery . In the mid-1860’s Zinin worked mainly at the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, to which he had been elected in 1855. He was also the first president of the Russian Chemical Society. His students included Borodin and Butlerov.

Zinin’s work in chemistry concerned the aromatic compounds. His doctoral dissertation, prepared in Liebig’s laboratory and defended at St. Petersburg University in 1841, was devoted to obtaining benzoin by the condensation of benzaldehyde, and benzyl by the oxidation of benzoin; he returned to the study of these compounds in the 1850’s. Zinin developed a method for the reduction of organic compounds using hydrogen at the moment of separation (acid + metal). In particular he studied the reduction of benzyl into benzoin and benzaldehyde into hydrobenzoin, obtaining numerous other reaction products by the use of these compounds.

Zinin is known primarily for his research on the reduction of nitro compounds into amino derivatives by the action of ammonium sulfide. In 1842 he described the reduction of nitrobenzene into aniline, and α-nitronaphthalene into the corresponding aminonaphthalene ; in 1845, by reducing azobenzene, he obtained benzidine. His discovery of the reaction for obtaining numerous representatives of the amino derivatives was later of great importance for the creation of the aniline dye industry.

Zinin also obtained valuable results in his research on allyl derivatives; he was the first to synthesize allyl alcohol, allyl mustard oil, and the allyl esters of a number of organic acids. During the Crimean War Zinin also studied nitroglycerine as an explosive substance.


I. Original Works. Zinin’s writings include O soedineniakh benzoila i ob otkrvtvkh novvkh te/akh, otnosvashchikhsva k benzoilovomu rodu (“On the Compounds of Benzoyl and on the Discovery of New Bodies, Related to the Benzoyl Type” St. Petersburg, 1840), his doctoral diss.; “Organische Salzbasen aus Nitronaphthalos and Nitrobenzid mittelst Schwefelwasserstoff entstehend,” in Annalen der Chemie and Pharmacie, 44 (1842), 283-287; “Ueber die Einwirkung des ätherischen Senföhls auf die organischen Basen,” ibid., 84 (1852), 346-349 ; and “Ueber die Einführung von Wasserstoff in organische Verbindungen,” ibid., 119 (1861), 179-182. See also the Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers,VI , 512 ; VIII , 1304; and XI, 890; which lists 34 memoirs by Zinin.

II. Secondary Literature. On Zinin and his work, see A . M . Butlerov and A. P. Borodin, “Nicolaus Nicolajewitsch Zinin,” in Berichte der Deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft,14 (1881), 2887-2908; N. A. Figurovsky and Y. I. Soloviev, Nikolay Nikolaevich Zinin. Biograficheskv ocherk (Moscow, 1957), with bibliography; A. W. von Hofmann’s report (8 Mar. 1880), in Berichte der Deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft,13 (1880), 449-450; H. M. Leicester, “N. N. Zinin, an Early Russian Chemist,” in Journal of Chemical Education, 17 (1940), 303-306 ; and B. N. Menshutkin, Nikolay Nikolaevich Zinin (Berlin, 1921), in Russian.

G. V. Bykov