July 18, 1937
Zolochiv, Poland (now Ukraine)
|Alma mater||Stuyvesant High School
|Doctoral advisor||William N. Lipscomb, Jr., Martin Gouterman|
|Known for||reaction mechanisms|
|Notable awards||1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry|
|Spouse||Eva Börjesson (m. 1960; 2 children)|
Roald Hoffmann (born Roald Safran; July 18, 1937)1 is an American theoretical chemist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus, at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.2
Hoffmann was born in Zolochiv, Poland (now Ukraine), to a Jewish family, and was named in honor of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. His parents were Clara (Rosen), a teacher, and Hillel Safran, a civil engineer.3 After Germany invaded Poland and occupied the town, his family was placed in a labor camp where his father, who was familiar with much of the local infrastructure, was a valued prisoner. As the situation grew more dangerous, with prisoners being transferred to liquidation camps, the family bribed guards to allow an escape and arranged with Ukrainian neighbors for Hoffman, his mother, two uncles and an aunt to hide in the attic and a storeroom of the local schoolhouse, where they remained for fifteen months, while Hoffman was aged 5 to 7.
His father remained at the labor camp, but was able to occasionally visit, until he was tortured and killed by the Germans for his involvement in a plot to arm the camp prisoners. When she received the news, his mother attempted to contain her sorrow by writing down her feelings in a notebook her husband had been using to take notes on a relativity textbook he had been reading. While in hiding his mother kept Hoffman entertained by teaching him to read and having him memorize geography from textbooks stored in the attic, then quizzing him on it. He referred to the experience as having been enveloped in a cocoon of love.4
Hoffman visited Zolochiv with his adult son (by then a parent of a five-year-old) in 2006 and found that the attic where he had hidden was still intact, but the storeroom had been incorporated, ironically enough, into a chemistry classroom. In 2009, a monument to Holocaust victims was built in Zolochiv on Hoffmann's initiative.6
Hoffmann graduated in 1955 from New York City's Stuyvesant High School,7 where he won a Westinghouse science scholarship. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Columbia University (Columbia College) in 1958. He earned his Master of Arts degree in 1960 from Harvard University. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Harvard University while working89101112 under direction of subsequent 1976 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner William N. Lipscomb, Jr. Under Lipscomb's direction the Extended Huckel method was developed by Lawrence Lohr and by Roald Hoffmann.913 This method was later extended by Hoffmann.14 He went to Cornell in 1965 and has remained there, becoming professor emeritus.
“From a chemist’s point of view, the surface or interior of a star…is boring—there are no molecules there.” -- Roald Hoffmann15
Hoffmann is also a writer of poetry published in two collections, The Metamict State (1987, ISBN 0-8130-0869-7) and Gaps and Verges (1990, ISBN 0-8130-0943-X), and of books explaining chemistry to the general public. Also, he co-authored with Carl Djerassi the play Oxygen, about the discovery of oxygen, but also about what it means to be a scientist and the importance of process of discovery in science.
- Priestley Medal (1990)
- Arthur C. Cope Award in Organic Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry Award (American Chemical Society), 1969
- Inorganic Chemistry Award (American Chemical Society), 1982
- Pimentel Award in Chemical Education (1996)
- Award in Pure Chemistry
- Monsanto Award
- Literaturpreis of the Verband der Chemischen Industrie for his textbook The Same and Not The Same (1997)
- National Medal of Science
- National Academy of Sciences
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow
- American Philosophical Society Fellow
- Kolos Medal
- Foreign Member, Royal Society
- Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- Harvard Centennial Medalist
- James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry
Hoffmann is member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science and is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
In August 2007, the American Chemical Society held a symposium at its biannual national meeting to honor Hoffmann's 70th birthday. He also has served as a consultant with Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical corporation.
- Hoffmann's birth name was Roald Safran. Hoffmann is the surname adopted by his stepfather in the years after World War II
- Hoffman, J. (2011). "Q&A: Chemical connector Roald Hoffmann talks about language, ethics and the sublime". Nature 480 (7376): 179. doi:10.1038/480179a.
- "Roald Hoffmann". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- The Long Ukrainian Winters featuring Roald Hoffman, lecture at the World Science Festival.
- The Tense Middle by Roald Hoffmann, story on NPR. Retrieved 29 September 2006.
- Holocaust monument dedicated in western Ukraine. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 20, 2009
- "Roald Hoffmann's land between chemistry, poetry and philosophy". Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Hoffmann R and Lipscomb WN, Theory of Polyhedral Molecules. III. Population Analyses and Reactivities for the Carboranes, J. Chem. Phys., 36, 3489 (1962).
- Hoffmann R and Lipscomb WN, Theory of Polyhedral Molecules. I. Physical Factorizations of the Secular Equation, J. Chem. Phys., 36, 2179 (1962).
- Hoffmann R and Lipscomb WN, The Boron Hydrides; LCAO-MO and Resonance Studies, J.Chem. Phys., 37, 2872 (1962).
- Hoffmann R and Lipscomb WN, Sequential Substitution Reactions on B10H10−2 and B12H12−2, J. Chem. Phys., 37, 520 (1962).
- Hoffmann R and Lipscomb WN, Intramolecular Isomerization and Transformations in Carboranes and Substituted Boron Hydrides, Inor. Chem., 2, 231 (1963).
- Lipscomb WN. Boron Hydrides, W. A. Benjamin Inc., New York, 1963, Chapter 3.
- Hoffmann R. An Extended Hückel Theory. I. Hydrocarbons. J. Chem. Phys, 39, 1397-1412 (1963).
- "A Brief History". The Cornelia Street Café. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- BoA sings for Sichuan's Earthquake ! « BoA’s Jewelry Box
- Nobel Prize Website
- Cornell Chemistry Faculty Research