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Roald Hoffmann

Roald Hoffmann (born July 18, 1937)[1] is an American theoretical chemist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He currently teaches at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.


Early life

Escape from the Holocaust

Hoffmann was born in Złoczów, Poland (now Ukraine) to a Jewish family and was named in honor of the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen. He and his mother were among the only members of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust, an experience which strongly influenced his beliefs and work. (A grandmother and several aunts, uncles, and cousins also survived.)[2] They immigrated to the United States in 1949.

Academic credentials

Hoffmann graduated in 1955 from New York City's Stuyvesant High School,[3] 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 and his Doctor of Philosophy degree, both from Harvard University, while working under the subsequent 1976 chemistry Nobel Prize winner William N. Lipscomb, Jr..

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.

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.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry

In 1981, Hoffmann received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Kenichi Fukui.[4]

Other awards

  • Priestley Medal
  • Arthur C. Cope Award in Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry Award (American Chemical Society)
  • Pimentel Award in Chemical Education
  • Award in Pure Chemistry
  • Monsanto Award
  • 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
  • Harvard Centennial Medalist

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[1].

In August 2007, the American Chemical Society held a symposium at its biannual national meeting to honor Hoffmann's 70th birthday.


  1. ^ Hoffmann's birth name was Roald Safran. Hoffmann is the surname adopted by his stepfather in the years after World War II
  2. ^ The Tense Middle by Roald Hoffmann, story on NPR. Retrieved 29 September 2006.
  3. ^ Roald Hoffmann's land between chemistry, poetry and philosophy. Retrieved on 2007-10-31.
  4. ^
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Roald_Hoffmann". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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