Nikolai Aleksandrovich Menshutkin – discoverer of Menshutkin reaction

Nikolai Aleksandrovich Menshutkin – discoverer of Menshutkin reaction

Nikolai Aleksandrovich Menshutkin

Biography & Contributions

Nikolai Aleksandrovich Menshutkin was a Russian chemist born on October 24, 1842 – died on February 05, 1907. Menshutkin was the discoverer of Menshutkin reaction. Menshutkin is regarded as a pioneer in chemical kinetics.

Menshutkin studied the reactions of phosphonic acid and was able to prove that not all three hydrogen atoms in the molecule are equivalent and therefore the formula HP(O)(OH)2 is more likely than P(OH)3.

In 1890 Menshutkin discovered that a tertiary amine can be converted into a quaternary ammonium salt by reaction with an alkyl halide.

Menshutkin further studied the influence of isomerism among alcohols and acids on esterification and showed that, both in respect of rate and limit, the primary, secondary, and tertiary alcohols differ from one another, and that unsaturated differ from saturated alcohols.

The first series of experiments were made with acetic acid and alcohols and were extended to a variety of acids. Subsequently the rate of chemical change was studied in the case of the formation of amides and anilides by the action of ammonia and aniline on acids by means of the same method as was employed in the esterification experiments. These researches led on to others, such as the study of the mutual displacement of bases in homogeneous systems, and the influence of temperature on the rate of several reactions.

Menshutkin further studied the effect of different solvents on the reaction rates. Between 1889 and 1895 Menshutkin focused on amines, on the kinetics of their interaction with alkyl halogen compounds and its dependence on the isomerism.

He succeeded in establishing a large number of other relations between the structure or constitution and chemical activity, as well as physical properties, such as boiling point, melting point and specific gravity.

Menshutkin Reaction

The Menshutkin reaction in organic chemistry converts a tertiary amine to a quaternary ammonium salt by reaction with an alkyl halide.


Amines are organic compounds and functional groups that contain a basic nitrogen atom with a lone pair. Amines are derivatives of ammonia, wherein one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a substituent such as an alkyl or aryl group. Amines are ubiquitous in biology.

Quaternary Ammonium Cations

Quaternary Ammonium Cations are positively charged polyatomic ions of the structure NR4+, R being an alkyl group or an aryl group. Quaternary ammonium compounds are prepared by the alkylation of tertiary amines with a halocarbon. Quaternary ammonium salts are used as disinfectants, surfactants, fabric softeners, and as antistatic agents. Quaternary ammonium salts are commonly used in the foodservice industry as sanitizing agents.

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