Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff
Born: 30 August 1852, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Died: 1 March 1911, Berlin, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Berlin University, Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions"
Field: chemical kinetics, physical chemistry
Prize share: 1/1
Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and earned his doctorate in Utrecht in 1874. He was a professor in Amsterdam for many years, but in 1896 he moved to Berlin, where he was offered a position with more research and less teaching. He formulated the osmotic pressure law, but also was important in stereochemistry, which studies molecular structure. Van't Hoff is considered one of the founders of physical chemistry. A key step in establishing this new field was the start of Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie in 1887.
At a fundamental level, chemistry deals with how molecules are composed of atoms and how atoms and molecules come in contact and form new constellations. During the 1870s and 1880s, Jacobus van 't Hoff made pioneering contributions with respect to both the structure of molecules and various sequences of events. A theory about osmotic pressure explains how concentrations even out in solutions that are separated by a membrane that allows the solvent to pass through but not the dissolved substance. Other works deal with chemical reactions and how temperatures affect them.