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Roald Hoffmann

  • Studio Enrique Martínez Celaya 11240 Playa Court Culver City, CA, 90230 United States (map)

Chemistry in Art, Art in Chemistry, and the Spiritual Ground They Share


Seating is limited. RSVP required.

Studio Enrique Martínez Celaya in collaboration with USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is pleased to present Roald Hoffmann, the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus, at Cornell University.

Is there an analogue in science to abstract art? In a richly illustrated lecture that moves from chemistry as a tool for art to the artistic elements in the molecular science, Roald Hoffmann explores the relationship between chemistry, art, and the spiritual ground they share as tools for the discovery of meaning.

Roald Hoffmann, a Nobel laureate, poet, and playwright, is a tireless advocate of the wonders of science and the beauty of chemistry. Born in 1937 in Złoczów, Poland, Hoffmann came to the United States in 1949 and studied chemistry at Columbia University. He earned his doctoral degree from Harvard University in 1962. In 1965 Hoffmann began working at Cornell University, where he is the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus. Hoffmann likes to characterize his contribution to chemistry as “applied theoretical chemistry,” his own blend of computations stimulated by experiment and coupled to the construction of generalized models, or frameworks for understanding. In 1965, in collaboration with Nobel laureate R. B. Woodward, he introduced the Woodward-Hoffmann rules, a method for exploring the electronic structure of transition states and intermediates in organic reactions. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981, jointly with Kenichi Fukui, for his theories concerning the course of chemical reactions.

Hoffmann has received the National Medal of Science and several awards from the American Chemical Society, including the Priestley Medal, the Arthur C. Cope Award in Organic Chemistry, and the Award in Inorganic Chemistry. He holds more than 25 honorary degrees and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and several foreign academies. He has published more than 600 scientific articles.

As a writer, Hoffmann has carved out a land between science, poetry, and philosophy, through many essays, five nonfiction books, three plays, and five published collections of poetry, including bilingual Spanish-English and Russian-English editions. Hoffmann was also the presenter of a television series, The World of Chemistry, that aired on PBS and on stations worldwide.