Aleksandr Zaitsev

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zaitsev, Aleksandr Mikhailovich


Born June 20 (July 2), 1841, in Kazan; died there Aug. 19 (Sept. 1), 1910. Russian organic chemist. Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1885). Student of A. M. Butlerov.

Upon graduating from the University of Kazan, Zaitsev worked (1862–65) in the laboratories of A. Kolbe and A. Wurtz. In 1870 he defended his doctoral dissertation, A New Method of Converting Fatty Acids to the Corresponding Alcohols, which was adjudged “extraordinary,” and in 1871 he became a professor ordinarius at the University of Kazan.

Zaitsev’s studies promoted the development and strengthening of Butlerov’s theory of chemical structure. Beginning in 1870, Zaitsev conducted research on saturated alcohols, developing a general method of synthesizing them by reducing fatty acid chlorides with sodium amalgam. In particular, he obtained normal primary butanol, whose existence was predicted by the theory of structure. In 1873 he synthesized diethylcarbinol by treating a mixture of ethyl iodide and ethyl formate with zinc. This work initiated the investigations of the French chemists F. Barbier and V. Grignard. In 1885 he proposed a new method of synthesizing saturated tertiary alcohols by treating a mixture of alkyl halide and ketone with zinc. From 1875 to 1907 he synthe-sized a number of unsaturated alcohols. The methods of synthesis developed by Zaitsev and his students using organozinc halides made it possible to obtain a large number of saturated and unsaturated alcohols and their derivatives. Together with his students he synthesized a number of unsaturated hydrocarbons (butylene, diallyl). His works on the order of addition of the elements of hydrogen halides (HX) to unsaturated hydrocarbons and the separation of HX from alkyl halides (Zaitsev’s rule) were of great theoretical importance. A number of works by Zaitsev and his students dealt with polyhydric alcohols and oxides and the production of unsaturated acids, hydroxy acids, and lactones—a class of organic compounds discovered by Zaitsev in 1873. He trained a large school of chemists, including E. E. Wagner, A. E. Arbuzov, S. N. Reformatskii, A. N. Reformatskii, and I. I. Kanonnikov.


“Novyi sintez alkogolei.”Zhurnal Russkogo fiziko-khimicheskogo obshchestva, 1874, vol. 6, p. 122. (With E. E. Wagner.)
“K voprosu o poriadke prisoedineniia i vydeleniia elementov iodistogo vodoroda v organicheskikh soedineniiakh.”Ibid, 1875, vol. 7, pp. 289–93.
Kurs organicheskoi khimii. Kazan, 1890–92.


Reformatskii, A. N. “Biografiia prof. A. M. Zaitseva.”Zhurnal Russkogo fiziki-khimicheskogo obshchestva. Chast’ khimicheskaia, otdel I, 1911, vol. 43, issue 6.
Reformatskii, S. N., and A. A. Al’bitskii. “Uchenaia deiatel’nost’ prof. A. M. Zaitseva.”Ibid. (Contains list of works.)
Musabekov, lu. S.Istoriia organicheskogo sinteza v Rossii. Moscow, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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