Jacobus Henricus Van 't Hoff
- Category : 1852-births
- Type : GE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 3
Dutch physical chemist, the first winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1901.
Van 't Hoff was the third of seven children in the marriage of Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff (14 June1817-1902) and Alida Jacoba Kolff (16 Dec 1820-1909).
He was an extremely fast learning student. After finishing the secondary HBS school at age 17 he went to the Delft Technical University to become an technical engineer on 8 July 1871 at age 19. After a short job in a sugar factory he decided that he was more interested in pure science than applied technology. He studied one year (instead of two) Mathematics and Physics at Leiden University to achieve his Kandidaats Exam on 21 June 1872 and the doctoral exam on 22 December 1873 in Utrecht to become a chemist.
In January 1874 he went to Bonn to work in the chemical Labaratory of Kekulé and then to Paris to study chemistry under Charles-Adolphe Wurtz. On 22 December 1874 he dissertated in Utrecht with the thesis ”Bijdrage tot de kennis van het cyaanazijnzuur en het malonzuur” (Contribution to the knowledge of cyanoacetic acids and malonic acid) .
His major contribution to chemistry however was published earlier in a 13 pages short paper. It was a proposal to extend the usual two-dimensional structural formula's of molecules to three dimensional space. This in Dutch written pamphlet laid the foundation of the subdiscipline of stereochemistry. In 1875 is was translated into French (La Chimie dans l'Espace), two years later in German (Die Lagerung der Atome im Raume), but only in 1891 in the English language.
After his dissertation Van 't Hoff had some trouble finding a job. In 1876 he became a lecturer at a veterinary school, a year later lector in Chemistry at the University of Amsterdam (12 Sept 1877 - 26 June 1878). He accepted the job on 15 Oct 1877 and gave on 2 Nov 1977 his maiden speech ”Het nut der theorie in de wetenschap” (the use of theory in science).
On 26 June 1878 he was appointed as Professor in Chemistry, geology and mineralogy in Amsterdam. His first lesson on 11 October 1878 was called ”De verbeeldingskracht in de wetenschap”(the imagination in science).
He published major scientific works in the German and French language. His "Etudes de dynamique chimique" (1884) deals with thermodynamics, reaction speeds, chemical equilibrium and chemical affinity. He formulated at the same time but independent of Le Chatelier "The Equilibrium Law" that can be used to predict the effect of a change in conditions on a chemical equilibrium.
Because his fame as ”the father of stereochemistry” had risen, many European universities wanted to appoint him. Amsterdam tried to keep him with a new modern laboratory built according to all of his wishes. It was opened in 1892, but on 30 December 1895 he left Amsterdam to go Berlin where he became a member of the Preusian academy of science. The Berlin University offered him much more time to spend to science as he only needed to give one lecture per week to his students. His lectures were bundled in Vorlesungen über theoretische und physikalische Chemie (1898-1900) and in "Die chemischen Grundlehren nach Menge, Mass und Zeit" (1912) so that he did not need to repeat them.
He got many awards for his theoretical work.
In 1901 he was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on osmotic pressure and thermal dynamics. He considered this as the crown of his work.
On 16 May 1904 Utrecht University granted him a "medicinae doctor honoris causa".
During his life he was an admirer of Lord Byron.
On 27 Dec 1878 he married Johanna Francina Mees (b. 19 Oct 1853, Rotterdam - 5 Jan 1935, Gorssel) in Rotterdam. The couple got two sons and two daughters.
He died 1 March 1911 in Steglitz near Berlin.
Today the University of Amsterdam hosts the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences