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Major Scientific Interests: the electronic structure of molecules, molecular orbitals, theory of the shapes, spectra, and reactions of molecules, organic and inorganic, and extended structures, the behaviour of matter under high pressure, chemical education, literature
Roald Hoffmann is an American chemist and author. For his research on the course of chemical reactions, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981 along with Japanese scientist Kenichi Fukui. He is also a writer, of poems, palsy, and nonfiction, constructing his own land between chemistry, philosophy and poetry.
Together with Robert B. Woodward, he developed the “Woodward-Hoffmann rules” a set of quantum-mechanically based rules with which the ease or difficulty of certain chemical reactions can be predicted.
Hoffmann’s focus is applied theoretical chemistry, which develops ways of translating the results of mathematical or computer-simulated methods to calculate electronic structure into simple orbital-based explanations used in all areas of chemistry.
Hoffmann used quantum mechanics and the wave properties of matter to make predictions. The basis for the development of the Woodward-Hoffmann rules was the total synthesis of vitamin B12, carried out by R.B. Woodward. Unusual experimentally observed ring-closure reactions led Woodward and Hoffman to their “symmetry rules”, which are an important aid in predicting suitable conditions for certain organic reactions (pericyclic reactions) and the stereochemistry (three-dimensional structure of atoms) of their products.
Throughout his scientific career, Hoffmann has always considered himself a teacher; the pedagogical perspective is important to him, in particular in his research. He is consistently reflective on the way chemistry is done and its function in culture and society. Such reflection, in numerous essays and books, has brought him close to philosophy of science and ethics. As an author, he published poems, essays, books and plays, thus forming a bridge between science, philosophy and literature.
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