Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff Biography - Nobel Prize Winner (1901)

 

Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff (August 30, 1852 - March 1, 1911) was a Dutch physical and organic chemist and the winner of the inaugural Nobel Prize in chemistry. His research on chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium, osmotic pressure and crystallography are credited to be their major works. Jacobus helped to found the discipline of physical chemistry as we know it today, he is also considered to be one of the greatest chemists of all time together with French chemists Antoine Lavoisier, Louis Pasteur and german chemist Friedrich Wöhler.

Early days
He was born in Rotterdam, the son of a medical doctor. From a young age he was interested in science, and lover of nature; he frequently took part in the botanical excursions, his receptiveness for philosophy and his predilection for poetry were already apparent in his early school years, Lord Byron was his idol. Against the wishes of his father he went to study chemistry, first at the Delft Polytechnical Institute, then at the University of Leiden, then to Bonn, Germany (where he studied with Friedrich Kekulé), then Paris (where he studied with C. A. Wurtz), and finally receiving his doctorate at the University of Utrecht in 1874. In 1878 van't Hoff married Johanna Francina Mees. They had two daughters, Johanna Francina (b. 1880) and Aleida Jacoba (b. 1882) and two sons, Jacobus Hendricus (b. 1883) and Govert Jacob (b. 1889).

Contributions to chemistry and major works

Van't Hoff in 1900s.Before receiving his doctorate, Van 't Hoff had already published the first of his important contributions to organic chemistry. In 1874 he accounted for the phenomenon of optical activity by assuming that the chemical bonds between carbon atoms and their neighbors were directed towards the corners of a regular tetrahedron. This three-dimensional structure perfectly accounted for the isomers found in nature (stereochemistry). He shares credit for this idea with the French chemist Joseph Le Bel, who independently came up with the same idea.

In 1884 Hoff published his research on chemical kinetics, naming it Études de Dynamique chimique ("Studies in Chemical Dynamics"), in which he described a new method for determining the order of a reaction using graphics, and applied the laws of thermodynamics to chemical equilibriums. He also introduced the modern concept of chemical affinity. In 1886 he showed a similarity between the behaviour of dilute solutions and gases. Until 1895 he worked on Svante Arrhenius theory of the dissociation of electrolytes. On 1896 he became professor to the Prussian Academy of Science at Berlin. His studies of the salt deposits at Stassfurt, contributed to Prussia's chemical industry. In 1887 he and German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald founded an influential scientific magazine named Zeitschrift für physikalische Chemie ("Journal of Physical Chemistry").

Winner of the inaugural Nobel Prize in chemistry

van't Hoff in the 1900s at the height of his career.Van 't Hoff became a lecturer in chemistry and physics at the Veterinary College in Utrecht. He then became a professor of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology at the University of Amsterdam for almost 18 years before eventually becoming the chairman of the chemistry department. In 1896 van't Hoff moved to Germany where he finished his career at the University of Berlin in 1911. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work with solutions. This can generally be summarized by stating that very dilute solutions follow mathematical laws that closely resemble the laws describing the behavior of gases.

Final days, awards and legacy
In 1885 he was appointed member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. Other distinctions included the honorary doctorates of Harvard and Yale 1901, Victoria University, Manchester 1903, Heidelberg 1908; the Davy Medal of the Royal Society 1893 (along with Le Bel), Helmholtz Medal of the Prussian Academy of Sciences 1911; he was also appointed Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur 1894, Senator der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (1911). Van't Hoff was also honorary member of the British Chemical Society in London, the Royal Academy of Sciences, in Göttingen 1892, American Chemical Society 1898, and the Académie des Sciences, in Paris 1905.

He was indeed a prominent scientist of its time, off the numerous distinctions he himself mentioned the award of the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry to him as the culmination-point of his career.

Jacobus died at the age of 58, on March 1, 1911, at Steglitz near Berlin.

 

LIST OF NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS IN CHEMISTRY PART II.

 

Grignard Victor

Grubbs Robert H

Haber Fritz

Hahn Otto

Harden Sir Arthur

Hassel Odd

Hauptman Herbert

Sir Walter Norman Haworth

Heeger Alan

Hershko Avram

Herschbach Dudley

Herzberg Gerhard

Heyrovsky Jaroslav

Hinshelwood Sir Cyril Norman

Hodgkin Dorothy Crowfoot

Hoff Jacobus Henricus

Hoffmann Roald

Huber Robert

Joliot-Curie Irene

Joliot Frederic

Karle Jerome

Karrer Paul

Kendrew Sir John Cowdery

Klug Sir Aaron

Knowles William

Kohn Walter

Kroto Sir Harold

Kuhn Richard

Langmuir Irving

Lee Yuan

Lehn Jean-Marie

Leloir Luis

Libby Willard Frank

Lipscomb William

MacDiarmid Alan G

MacKinnon Roderick

Marcus Rudolph A

Martin Archer John Porter

McMillan Edwin Mattison

Merrifield Robert Bruce

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