Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff is known for his contribution in physical chemistry. He conducted extensive research in the fields of chemical equilibrium, osmotic pressure and stereochemistry, for which he received his first Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
The early years
The son of a medical doctor, Hoff was the third child in a family of nine. Even at a young age science interested him. He spent his time taking part in botanical excursions. He started his schooling in Hoogere Burgerschool (High School), a school in Rotterdam known for its focus on science and mathematics. In 1871, he earned a diploma in technology from the Polytechnic School at Delft. This was followed by studying physics at the University of Leiden in Germany and Chemistry at the University of Bonn. Feeling an urge for further studies Hoff even studied chemistry at the École de Medicine in France, returning to the University of Utrecht for his doctoral dissertation in 1874.
Contributions to chemistry
Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff made many notable contributions to the field of chemistry. Before publishing his dissertation, he published a pamphlet in which he stated the four bonds of carbon were pointed towards the corners of a tetrahedron. This theory about the optical activity has become one of the building blocks in organic chemistry today. Known as optical isomerism, his theory describes how carbon has different forms of molecules, each having its own optical properties.Though his theory was in mostly in molecular chemistry, it also had an element of physics involved in it.
The beginning of physical chemistry
Hoff went on to become a lecturer in theoretical and physical chemistry at the University of Amsterdam. It is here he studied reaction rates, chemical equilibrium, chemical affinity and osmotic pressures. These are classified under physical chemistry.