Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff
- 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.
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.
Grubbs Robert H
Harden Sir Arthur
Sir Walter Norman
Hoff Jacobus Henricus
Kendrew Sir John
Klug Sir Aaron
Kroto Sir Harold
Libby Willard Frank
MacDiarmid Alan G
Marcus Rudolph A
Martin Archer John
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