There was a time when science and poetry shared the same language. But through the Industrial Revolution and Romanticism, the two drifted apart. Roald Hoffman, a 1981 Nobel laureate in chemistry, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, and published poet, argues that scientific articles need a more human voice and that poetry can be found everywhere, including the most arcane scientific detail.
Roald Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Zloczow, Poland. Having survived the war, he came to the U. S. in 1949, and studied chemistry at Columbia and Harvard Universities (Ph.D. 1962). Since 1965 he is at Cornell University, now as the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters.
"Applied theoretical chemistry" is the way Roald Hoffmann likes to characterize the particular blend of computations stimulated by experiment and the construction of generalized models that is his contribution to chemistry.
Hoffmann is also a writer of essays, non-fiction, poems and plays. His poetry collections include The Metamict State, Gaps and Verges, and Memory Effects. His most recent collections are Soliton and a volume of selected poems translated into Spanish entitled Catalísta.
Hoffman’s work also includes Chemistry Imagined, a unique art/science/literature collaboration with artist Vivian Torrence, which reveals the creative and humanistic sparks of the molecular science. The award-winning The Same and Not the Same, translated into multiple languages, is a thoughtful account of the dualities that lie under the surface of chemistry. Old Wine, New Flasks: Reflections on Science and Jewish Tradition, by Hoffman and Shira Leibowitz Schmidt, is a book of the intertwined voices of science and religion. Hoffmann is also the presenter of the television course The World of Chemistry, which airs on many PBS stations and abroad.
The play Oxygen, by Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann, premiered in the U.S. at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in 2001, and has had productions in London, East Lansing, MI, Madison, WI, Columbus, OH, Germany, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Toronto. Oxygen has been translated into many languages.
Hoffmann writes poems fusing a scientist's predilection for precise observation with a poet's lyrical, transformative voice."
- Publisher's Weekly