back to top

    The Polish Nobel Laureates series: Roald Hoffmann

    Roald Hoffmann is a Polish-American who was born into a Jewish family in Złoczów, Poland (now Ukraine). He is also a theoretical chemist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He has also published plays and poetry since 1970s. Also, he is the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus, at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.

    Hoffmann and his mother survived the ghetto, a labor camp and 15 months in hiding but his father was killed by the Nazis. After the war, Clara married Paul Hoffmann. The family moved to the United States in 1949 and finally Roald was able to go to school on an every day basis.  

    Kenichi  Fukui was co-recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Roald Hoffmann. In chemical reactions, molecules composed of atoms meet and form new compounds. Electrons orbiting around the atoms’ nuclei play an important role here. After Kenichi Fukui proved that the properties of the electron orbits that most weakly bound to the atom are critical in chemical reactions, Roald Hoffmann went on to further develop these theories from the mid-1960s. Independently of one another, Hoffmann and Fukui both demonstrated how the symmetrical properties of electron orbitals explain the course of chemical reactions.

    Hoffmann has been writing poetry since the 1970s and is as likely to be wrestling with lyrical verses as thinking about molecules. 

    The poems in Hoffmann’s latest work interweave Hoffmann’s scientific perspective with his poetic sensibility, often in unexpected ways. For example, in “Singing in the Rain, Provence,” (dedicated to Evert Lindfors, the artist who created the sculpture on the book’s cover), Hoffmann describes himself walking in the rain, the closest to dancing he’ll ever come:

    Or the rain could

    twist, like an in-

    tegral sign, or

    its drops reach and

    seize hold, in lines

    at 45 degrees   

    (news.cornell.edu)

    Although the poems in the collection touch on many aspects of Hoffmann’s interests, he’s wary of being “typed” as a scientist or poet or even Holocaust survivor. “I want to be seen as a person,” he said.

     

    “Constants of the Motion” by Roald Hoffmann/news.cornell.edu

     

     

    We encourage you to check the rest of the articles regarding the Polish Nobel laureates series:  

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: MARIA SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ALBERT A. MICHELSON

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: WŁADYSŁAW REYMONT

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ISIDOR ISAAC RABI

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: TADEUSZ REICHSTEIN

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ANDRZEJ SCHALLY

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: MENACHEM BEGIN

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ

    More in section

    2,222FansLike
    358FollowersFollow
    1,164FollowersFollow