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Prestigious National Historic Chemical Landmark designation

The work of legendary chemistry professor Izaak M. Kolthoff (1894-1993) in establishing the field of analytical chemistry as a scientific discipline has received the prestigious honor of being named a 2014 American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmark. This news coincides with recognition of the centennial of Smith Hall, the classic chemistry building on the Northrop Mall of the University’s campus.

Kolthoff, who was a professor at the University of Minnesota from 1927 to 1962, is widely recognized within his field as the “father” of modern analytical chemistry. Kolthoff’s research transformed the way that scientists identify and quantify chemical substances, from a collection of empirical recipes and prescriptions to a branch of chemistry grounded on solid theoretical principles and experimental techniques. Today, analytical chemistry is used in fields as varied as clinical medicine, environmental studies, forensics, and food and drug safety.

“I’m thrilled that the American Chemical Society is recognizing I. M. Kolthoff’s enormous contributions to the development of analytical chemistry,” said William B. Tolman, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. “I look forward to celebrating this designation at the same time we salute the 100th anniversary of the construction of Smith Hall, a cornerstone on our Twin Cities campus.”

The American Chemical Society established the National Historic Chemical Landmark program in 1992 to recognize important achievements in the history of the chemical sciences. This is only the second landmark designation in the five-state region. In 2007, 3M was recognized for the invention of Scotch tape.

A public ceremony celebrating the landmark designation and Smith Hall centennial, which will include the unveiling of a plaque in Kolthoff’s honor, is set for Friday, September 12, on the steps of Smith Hall, Kolthoff’s long-time academic home. A research symposium on Kolthoff’s scientific legacy will follow on Saturday, September 13. These events are sponsored by the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, the University’s Department of Chemistry, and the Minnesota Section of the American Chemical Society.

About Izaak M. Kolthoff
Professor Kolthoff was an active faculty member in the Department of Chemistry from 1927 to 1962, and continued to conduct research as a Professor Emeritus up until his death, at age 99, in 1993.

Kolthoff was a pre-eminent educator who authored nearly 1,000 scientific papers, numerous textbooks, and a definitive 30-volume treatise. At the University of Minnesota, Kolthoff advised more than 50 doctorate chemists, many of whom went on to major academic positions of their own. In all, more than 1,100 chemists can trace their scientific roots to Kolthoff.

Kolthoff’s scientific achievements garnered many accolades. He was inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and knighted by his native Netherlands as a Commander in the Order of Orange-Nassau. He received the William H. Nichols Medal, the Robert Boyle Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry in England, the Fisher Award, and the first J. Calvin Giddings Award for Excellence in Teaching Analytical Chemistry, among many other awards and medals. In 1972, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents named a new chemistry research building Kolthoff Hall. In 2012, Kolthoff was posthumously inducted into the Minnesota Science and Technology Hall of Fame.

Today, the Department of Chemistry continues to honor Kolthoff's legacy with the Kolthoff Lectureship in Chemistry, annually inviting some of the most renowned scientists in the world including Nobel laureates Jean-Marie Lehn and Harold Kroto as well as dozens of National Academy of Sciences members to present a series of lectures and meet with faculty members and students.

More information about Kolthoff and his legacy can be found at, or download the attached PDF.