Introduction | Muspratt
| Black | Priestley
| Lavoisier | Dalton
August Wilhelm Hofmann played a major role in the development
and organization of the 19th century chemical profession in both
Germany and Great Britain. Born in Geissen, he entered the local
university in 1836 to study law and philosophy, but switched
to chemistry after attending Liebigs lectures. After obtaining
his doctorate in 1841, he served as Liebigs assistant and
taught briefly at the University of Bonn. In 1845 Hofmann was
recommended by Liebig as professor and director of the newly
organized Royal College of Chemistry in London. Founded by Prince
Albert and modeled on Liebigs laboratory, the Royal College
would, during Hofmanns 20-year tenure, train some of Englands
most important chemists, including W. Perkin, H. Armstrong, and
In 1865 Hofmann returned to Germany as Professor of Chemistry
at the University of Berlin, where he remained until his death.
In 1867 he founded the German Chemical Society (Duetsche Chemische
Gesellschaft) along with its famous journal, the Berichte, which
was first published in 1868.
In the field of organic chemistry, Hofmann is best known for
his studies of the organic derivatives of ammonia and phosphine
and for his subsequent discovery of the Hofmann degradation reaction.
He also investigated the structure of formaldehyde and discovered
the first unsaturated alcohol as well as several organic dyes,
including fuchsine, rosaniline, and aniline blue. Since mauve,
the first important aniline dye, was discovered by his student,
William Perkin, the synthetic dye industry may be said to have
been born in his London laboratory.
In 1865 Hofmann published his book, An Introduction to Modern
Chemistry. This volume gave a brilliant summary of type theory
and the newly emerging theory of structure and strongly influenced
the revision of introductory textbooks in both Europe and the
United States. In this book, Hofmann first introduced the term
valence, under its longer variant quantivalence, to describe
the combining capacity of an atom. Although personally incompetent
in the laboratory, Hofmann was skillful at creating interesting
lecture demonstrations such as the Hofmann electrolysis cell,
which were featured in the book. Hofmann was also the first chemist
to popularize the use of the atomic model.
Gay-Lussac | Berzelius
| Wöhler | Dumas
| Graham | Bunsen |
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