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British Industrial History

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August Wilhelm von Hofmann

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Dr. A. W. Hofmann

8 April 1818 – 5 May 1892 was a German chemist[1] and attended the Royal College of Chemistry. He tutored Frederick Abel.

In Liebig's laboratory at GiessenIn his first research, was on coal-tar and the organic bases in naphtha, as a result he established the nature of aniline. He referred to aniline as his first love. His perception of the analogy between it and ammonia led to his famous work on the amines and ammonium bases and the allied organic phosphorus compounds, while his researches on rosaniline, which he first prepared, formed the first of a series of investigations on colouring matter which ended with quinoline red in 1887.

He is remembered for the Hofmann rearrangement and Hofmann elimination reaction. He isolated sorbic acid from rowanberries' oil in 1859, a chemical compound that is widely used as a food preservative now.

c 1860 Hofmann was the first to introduce molecular models into public lectures, following the suggestion 5 years earlier (in 1855) by his colleague William Odling that carbon is tetravalent. However, his molecular models were two-dimensional representations of three dimensional molecules, and with the carbon atom smaller in size than the hydrogen.

Hofmann's colour scheme is still in use by some scientists.

1861 - 1863 President of the Chemical Society. [2]

William Henry Perkin was a student of Hofmann's at the Royal College of Chemistry in London, when he discovered the first aniline dye, mauveine.[3], as was John Spiller, another chemist who had a significiant industrial career.


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