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August Wilhelm von Hofmann

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Dr. A. W. Hofmann (8 April 1818 – 5 May 1892), chemist[1]

1818 Born in Giessen

1836 Attended Giessen (university)

In Liebig's laboratory at Giessen, Hofmann's first research, was on coal-tar and the organic bases in naphtha, as a result he established the nature of aniline. He referred to aniline as his first love. His perception of the analogy between it and ammonia led to his famous work on the amines and ammonium bases and the allied organic phosphorus compounds.

1841 Gained a doctorate at Giessen.

His researches on rosaniline, which he was the first to prepare, formed the first of a series of investigations on colouring matter which ended with quinoline red in 1887.

1845 Moved to Bonn where he seemed to have better prospects for advancement

As a result of his promotion of science, a private science college was planned in London, which would become the Royal College of Chemistry. Liebig recommended Hofmann as the person to lead the new college. Prince Albert used his German connections to ensure that Hofmann had a suitable position in Germany in case the new London institution collapsed.

1845 Hofmann became sole professor and director of the Royal College of Chemistry on George Street, Hanover Square where he inspired young students with the science of chemistry. 26 students enrolled for the first session, including Warren De La Rue, Frederick Abel, and Edward Nicholson.

1847 Hofmann married Helene Moldenhauer, Liebig's niece.

William Henry Perkin was a student of Hofmann's at the Royal College of Chemistry in London, when he discovered the first aniline dye, mauveine.[2], as was John Spiller, another chemist who had a significiant industrial career.

He is remembered for the Hofmann rearrangement and Hofmann elimination reaction. He isolated sorbic acid from rowanberry oil in 1859, a chemical compound that is widely used as a food preservative now.

c.1860 Hofmann was the first to introduce molecular models into public lectures, following the suggestion 5 years earlier (in 1855) by his colleague William Odling that carbon is tetravalent. However, his molecular models were two-dimensional representations of three dimensional molecules, and with the carbon atom smaller in size than the hydrogen.

Hofmann's colour scheme is still in use by some scientists.

1861-63 President of the Chemical Society. [3]

As a result of his growing international fame he received offers from several German universities. He chose to go to Berlin, severing connection with London in 1866.

1892 Died and buried in Berlin.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of August Wilhelm Hofmann, ODNB