About the Prize

Last update: 23 November 2022

The UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences was created to foster scientific progress, science popularization and international cooperation in the basic sciences. It also commemorates the remarkable scientific heritage of D. I. Mendeleev, father of the Periodic Table, who’s work played a fundamental role in the future of chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy and geochemistry – but also in what is now termed sustainable development.

It is awarded annually to two individual award-winners for their breakthrough discoveries, outstanding innovations and avid promotion of the basic sciences, driving or with potential to drive in the future, socio-economic transformation and development of human societies. The Prize consists of a monetary reward of US $250,000 for each of the two winners. A gold medal and a diploma are given to each of the recipients.

The Prize aims to be gender transformative in line with UNESCO’s Global Priority on Gender Equality, and the candidatures of women scientists are encouraged.

The Government of the Russian Federation proposed to establish and fund a joint UNESCO-Russian Federation international prize, in the name of the Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev, for the Basic Sciences. The Prize is funded by the Government of the Russian Federation.

Basic sciences, essential research


On 1 March 1869, the course of science changed. On that day, Dimitri I. Mendeleev completed his work on “The experience of a system of elements based on their atomic weight and chemical similarity”. He realized that when organizing the known elements by atomic weight, certain types of elements occurred regularly. This system indicated that there is a link between the structure of an element and its properties, and showed gaps between known elements, allowing Mendeleev to predict the existence of elements that were still unknown. It was the discovery of the Periodic Law.

Apparently the future does not threaten the Periodic Law by its destruction and on the contrary it promises the superstructure and its further development.
Dimitri I. Mendeleev Personal diary, 10 June 1905

He was right. Today his periodic table is a common tool in every classroom and every research laboratory, and the Table has been continuously supplemented, as scientists identify and synthesize new elements, mainly through international scientific cooperation.

The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements is more than just a guide or catalogue of the entire known atoms on the planet; it is essentially a window on the universe, helping to expand our understanding of the world around us.

It is a great example of the power of basic sciences to drive innovation and progress. According to John Mather, 2006 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, “engineers and entrepreneurs use this knowledge to build commercial empires. Doctors use what we find to develop new cures. Architects build houses with modern materials. Airplanes are designed at the very edge of what is possible. Even cars are completely dependent on basic science".

Investing in basic sciences will help us create the solutions we need to address global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, technology divide, water and energy crises.

And yet, fundamental research is undervalued and underfunded. UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences was created to raise awareness of their role in creating peaceful and prosperous societies, and to foster scientific progress, science popularization and international cooperation.

Dmitry Mendeleev: the teachings of a prophet
July-September 2019
Chemistry and life
Jan. - Mar. 2011

The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements: a window on the universe