Julia Lermontova, daughter of General Vsevolod Lermontov and Elisawkha Andrejevna Kossikovsly, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 21 December 1846 into a Russian aristocratic family.
Julia spent her childhood and youth in Moscow, where she received a refined and careful education from private tutors. From an early age, she showed a great interest in science, and in particular in chemistry. Thus, after completing her primary school studies, she decided to apply for a place at the Petrovskaya Agricultural Academy, noted for its excellent chemistry program. However, her application was denied because, in those days, the doors of higher educational institutions were closed to women.
It was then, thanks to the intervention and influence of Sophia Kovalesky (the first great Russian mathematician), with whom she would forge a long and deep friendship, that she decided to continue her education abroad. Thus, in the autumn of 1869, at the age of 22, Julia arrived at the University of Heidelberg, one of the most important universities in Germany along with that of Göttingen.
At Heidelberg she had the opportunity to attend Robert Bunsen's lectures as a listener and was finally admitted to work in his laboratory.
On Mendeleyev's advice, she began to investigate rare platinum metals by studying new techniques for separating platinum metals. This research was essential in the arrangement of the elements ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum, as Mendeleyev's records and their correspondence suggest.
In 1871, he moved to Berlin to study organic chemistry privately in the laboratory of August von Hoffmann. His most important work with Hoffmann reported to the German Chemical Society and subsequently published, was on the exact formula of diphenyl.
Influenced, again, by Sophia Kovaleski, she decided to do her doctorate at the University of Göttingen. Thus, in 1874 she completed her dissertation "Zur Kenntniss der Methylenverbindungen" (dealing with the analysis of methyl compounds), obtaining the grade "Magna cum laude". In 1875 she was inducted into the Russian Chemical Society.
At the age of 28, after completing her education, she returned to Russia and began working in the laboratory of Vladimir Markovnikov at Moscow University.
He then received an invitation from Alexander Butlerov and moved to St. Petersburg. It was here that he researched 2-methyl-2-butenic acid, but in 1877, after the death of his father, he moved back to Moscow. There, Markovnikov managed to incorporate Julia into his research on Caucasian oil. While researching the separation of oil components with engineer Alexander Letny, he found that oil was much better than coal for industry, as it produced a higher quality lighting gas. Julia invented a machine for distilling oil and contributed significantly to the development of oil and gas plants in Russia.
Julia used to spend the summer months in Semenkova, where she had inherited a family house, moving there permanently when she gave up chemistry. In Semenkova she developed her interest in agricultural science, producing cheeses that were eventually sold in Russia and Ukraine.
Julia Lermontova died on 16 December 1919 of a cerebral hemorrhage.