Roald Hoffmann

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Roald Hoffmann : biography

July 18, 1937 –

Roald Hoffmann (born Roald Safran; July 18, 1937)Hoffmann’s birth name was Roald Safran. Hoffmann is the surname adopted by his stepfather in the years after World War II 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.

Artistic interests

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 a play called "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.

Hoffmann stars in the World of Chemistry video series with Don Showalter.

Since the spring of 2001, Hoffmann has been the host of a monthly series at New York City’s Cornelia Street Cafe called "Entertaining Science," which explores the juncture between the arts and science.

Hoffmann and Brian Alan produced an English cover of Wei Wei’s song “Dedication of Love“, part of an international music project raising funds to help the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake.

The World Of Chemistry with Roald Hoffman

Hoffman is the co-host of the Annenberg/CPB educational series, The World of Chemistry, with Don Showalter.

Chemistry interests

Hoffmann has investigated both organic and inorganic substances, developing computational tools and methods such as the extended Hückel method, which he proposed in 1963.

He also developed, with Robert Burns Woodward, rules for elucidating reaction mechanisms (the Woodward-Hoffmann rules). He also introduced the isolobal principle.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry

In 1981, Hoffmann received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Kenichi Fukui "for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions"

Other awards

  • 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.

Early life

Escape from the Holocaust

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. 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. featuring Roald Hoffman, lecture at the World Science Festival.

Most of the rest of the family perished in Holocaust, though one grandmother and a few others survived. by Roald Hoffmann, story on NPR. Retrieved 29 September 2006. They migrated to the United States in 1949.

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.. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 20, 2009

Academic credentials

Hoffmann graduated in 1955 from New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, 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 working

under direction of subsequent 1976 chemistry Nobel Prize winner William N. Lipscomb, Jr. Under Lipscomb’s direction the Extended Huckel method was developed by Lawrence Lohr and by Roald Hoffmann. This method was later extended by Hoffmann. He went to Cornell in 1965 and has remained there, becoming professor emeritus.