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Dedication ceremony and research symposium, Sept. 12 & Sept. 13

Honor recognizes the research of Professor Izaak M. Kolthoff, the ‘father’ of modern analytical chemistry

Download a PDF of the ACS Commemorative Booklet about Kolthoff; a PDF of the dedication ceremony; and a PDF of the Research Symposium Booklet.

A public dedication ceremony, Friday, Sept. 12, and research symposium, Saturday, Sept. 13, are planned to celebrate a prestigious national honor for the University of Minnesota and its Department of Chemistry. 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 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.

Dedication Ceremony, Friday, Sept. 12

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 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, on the steps of Smith Hall, Kolthoff’s long-time academic home. The dedication ceremony will feature remarks from the University of Minnesota and the American Chemical Society. Speakers include Professor William Tolman, chair of the College of Science & Engineering’s (CSE) Department of Chemistry; Steven Crouch, dean of the CSE; Karen Hanson, provost and senior vice president for the University’s Office of Academic Affairs; Clyde Allen, regent from the University’s Board of Regents; Rebecca Guza, chair of the Minnesota Local Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS); Susan King, senior vice president of the ACS Journals Publishing Group; and Marinda Li Wu, immediate past president of the ACS.

A reception and tours will follow the dedication ceremony from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The tours will focus on the Department of Chemistry’s collaborative and individual research excellence, its cutting-edge technology and equipment, interdisciplinary research, and its education of more than 10,000 students annually. The tours are opportunities to visit the department’s teaching, laser, chemical biology, and organic synthetic laboratories as well as learn about two of its research centers (the Center for Sustainable Polymers and the Chemical Theory Center), and its instrument facility.

Research Symposium, Saturday, Sept. 13

A research symposium on Kolthoff’s scientific legacy is planned for 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, in 100 Smith Hall. Tours will follow.

The symposium features some of the most renowned scientists in their field who are living out Kolthoff’s commitments to education and research at their universities and in their work. Some can trace their scientific lineage back to Professor Kolthoff. Speakers include Allen Bard from the University of Texas at Austen, Harry Gray from the California Institute of Technology, Laura Kiessling from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Judith Klinman from the University of California, Berkeley, and Richard Zare from Stanford University. In addition, UMN Chemistry Professor Peter Carr will share his story of friendship with Kolthoff.

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.

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.

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 wrote 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 Ph.D. 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

Smith Hall and Professor Lee Irvin Smith

Smith Hall was built in 1913, and the centennial of this classic chemistry building on the Northrop Mall is being commemorated as part of the National Historic Chemical Landmark celebration, Sept. 12-13. It was named after Lee Irvin Smith, a chemistry professor and administrator, in 1972, at the same time the chemistry addition was named Kolthoff Hall after Izaak M. Kolthoff. Smith came to the University in 1920. As a researcher he specialized in synthetic organic chemistry, and served as chief of the Division of Organic Chemistry form 1932 to 1958. He retired in 1960, and died in 1973. He is best known for his extensive work on polymethylbenzenes, which led to the synthesis of vitamin E. His research also focused on tocopherols, polyalkylated benzenes, and cycopropanes. Smith published more than 240 papers, and advised 67 doctorate and master’s students. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1944, and was the first recipient of the Minnesota Award, given to him in 1958 by the Minnesota Section of the American Chemical Society.