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Nobel laureate in chemistry Roald Hoffmann to give a lecture at the UB

Roald Hoffmann won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1981.

Roald Hoffmann won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1981.

Roald Hoffmann's studies about symmetry properties of molecular orbitals are considered one of the most important advances in organic chemistry in the second half of the 20th century.

Roald Hoffmann's studies about symmetry properties of molecular orbitals are considered one of the most important advances in organic chemistry in the second half of the 20th century.

20/01/2023

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Roald Hoffmann, awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Barcelona in 1992, will give the lecture "All the Ways to Have a Bond" on Tuesday 24 January at 11:00 a.m. in the Aula Magna Enric Casas of the Faculty of Chemistry. The Faculty of Chemistry and the UB Institute of Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (IQTC) are organizing this session, which can be followed live on this link.

Roald Hoffmann, linked to Cornell University (USA), shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Kenichi Fukui for their independently developed theories on how the symmetry properties of molecular orbitals explain the course of chemical reactions.

It should be noted that Roald Hoffmann has collaborated on several occasions with the UB, especially with the team of Santiago Álvarez, professor emeritus at the Department of Inorganic and Organic Chemistry who sponsored him in the act of investiture as doctor honoris causa, and the UB lecturer Pere Alemany, from the Department of Materials Science and Physical Chemistry and the IQTC.

In his lecture, he will explore the world of chemical bonds, which are essential for understanding matter and life, and will discuss some of the experimental criteria for studying their characteristics.

The symmetry properties of molecular orbitals

Born in 1937 to a Polish family of Jewish origins in Zolochiv (Ukraine), Hoffmann experienced the barbarity of war in the European continent as a child —he was hidden in an attic for a long time and his father was killed by the Nazis. After fleeing to the United States with his family, he studied chemistry at Columbia University and received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1962.

In the field of chemistry, his work has contributed to deciphering the role of orbitals in chemical reactions and the electronic structure of initial and final compounds. The well-known Woodward-Hoffmann rules —developed in collaboration with Robert B. Woodward — are based on the symmetry properties of molecular orbitals and are considered one of the most important advances in organic chemistry in the second half of the 20th century.

New frontiers between art and science

Hoffmann is also noted for his vocation for essays, literature, and poetry. In the 1970s he began writing poetry, and the University of Central Florida Press published his poetry collections The metamict state (1987) and Gaps and verges (1990). He is also the author of an essay on science titled The same and not the same and is co-author, with Carl Djerassi, of the well-known play Oxygen, translated into Catalan in 2011, which reflects on the process of scientific discovery. In collaboration with artist Vivian Torrence, he created Chemistry Imagined (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993), and has also explored the boundaries between art and science with initiatives such as the monthly science cafés held at the Cornelia Street Cafe in New York.

In this line of literary activities, on Friday 20 January Hoffmann will present a bilingual anthology of his poems titled Los hombres y las moléculas (Auralaria Ediciones, 2022), in the auditorium of the Lonja de Orihuela (Alicante), as part of the activities of the Aula de Poesía Miguel Hernández. On Monday 23 January he will present this work at the headquarters of the Institute for Catalan Studies, at 6:00 p.m, in an event with the participation of Gregori Ujaque, president of the Catanal Society of Chemistry (SCQ); Santiago Álvarez, professor emeritus of the Faculty of Chemistry at the UB; Luisa Pastor, translator and editor, Àngel Terron, professor of chemistry from the University of the Balearic Islands.

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