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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > August Wilhelm von Hofmann Quotes

August Wilhelm von Hofmann
(8 Apr 1818 - 2 May 1892)

German chemist.

Science Quotes by August Wilhelm von Hofmann (6 quotes)

I trust ... I have succeeded in convincing you that modern chemistry is not, as it has so long appeared, an ever-growing accumulation of isolated facts, as impossible for a single intellect to co-ordinate as for a single memory to grasp.
The intricate formulae that hang upon these walls, and the boundless variety of phenomena they illustrate, are beginning to be for us as a labyrinth once impassable, but to which we have at length discovered the clue. A sense of mastery and power succeeds in our minds to the sort of weary despair with which we at first contemplated their formidable array. For now, by the aid of a few general principles, we find ourselves able to unravel the complexities of these formulae, to marshal the compounds which they represent in orderly series; nay, even to multiply their numbers at our will, and in a great measure to forecast their nature ere we have called them into existence. It is the great movement of modern chemistry that we have thus, for an hour, seen passing before us. It is a movement as of light spreading itself over a waste of obscurity, as of law diffusing order throughout a wilderness of confusion, and there is surely in its contemplation something of the pleasure which attends the spectacle of a beautiful daybreak, something of the grandeur belonging to the conception of a world created out of chaos.
— August Wilhelm von Hofmann
Concluding remark for paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
Science quotes on:  |  Accumulation (30)  |  Chaos (75)  |  Chemistry (242)  |  Clue (14)  |  Complexity (88)  |  Compound (56)  |  Confusion (39)  |  Fact (688)  |  Forecast (9)  |  Formula (70)  |  Grandeur (20)  |  Isolated (14)  |  Labyrinth (9)  |  Law (485)  |  Light (331)  |  Mastery (26)  |  Obscurity (24)

I would trade all my experimental works for the single idea of the benzene theory.
— August Wilhelm von Hofmann
Quoted by B. L. Lepsius in 'Hofmann und die Deutsche Chemische Gesellschaft', Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft (1918), 51, 51.
Science quotes on:  |  Benzene (4)

In the benzene nucleus we have been given a soil out of which we can see with surprise the already-known realm of organic chemistry multiply, not once or twice but three, four, five or six times just like an equivalent number of trees. What an amount of work had suddenly become necessary, and how quickly were busy hands found to carry it out! First the eye moves up the six stems opening out from the tremendous benzene trunk. But already the branches of the neighbouring stems have become intertwined, and a canopy of leaves has developed which becomes more spacious as the giant soars upwards into the air. The top of the tree rises into the clouds where the eye cannot yet follow it. And to what an extent is this wonderful benzene tree thronged with blossoms! Everywhere in the sea of leaves one can spy the slender hydroxyl bud: hardly rarer is the forked blossom [Gabelblüte] which we call the amine group, the most frequent is the beautiful cross-shaped blossom we call the methyl group. And inside this embellishment of blossoms, what a richness of fruit, some of them shining in a wonderful blaze of color, others giving off an overwhelming fragrance.
— August Wilhelm von Hofmann
A. W. Hofmann, after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest (Mar 1890). Trans. in W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey and Susanne Stark, 'Hofmann's Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities', Journal of Chemical Education (1991), 68, 887-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Benzene (4)  |  Organic Chemistry (33)  |  Radical (18)

Instead of disbursing her annual millions for these dye stuffs, England will, beyond question, at no distant day become herself the greatest coloring producing country in the world; nay, by the very strangest of revolutions she may ere long send her coal-derived blues to indigo-growing India, her tar-distilled crimson to cochineal-producing Mexico, and her fossil substitutes for quercitron and safflower to China, Japan and the other countries whence these articles are now derived.
— August Wilhelm von Hofmann
From 'Report on the Chemical Section of the Exhibition of 1862.' As quoted in Sir Frederick Abel, 'The Work of the Imperial Institute' Nature (28 Apr 1887), 35, No. 913, 620. Abel called the display of the first dye-products derived from coal tar at the Exhibition of 1862, “one of the features of greatest novelty.”
Science quotes on:  |  Blue (54)  |  China (19)  |  Coal (44)  |  Color (95)  |  Country (136)  |  Crimson (4)  |  Derived (5)  |  Distilled (2)  |  Dye (6)  |  England (35)  |  Fossil (110)  |  Growing (15)  |  India (15)  |  Japan (8)  |  Producing (6)  |  Revolution (68)  |  Send (17)  |  Strangest (4)  |  Substitute (25)  |  World (854)

People have wracked their brains for an explanation of benzene and how the celebrated man [Kekulé] managed to come up with the concept of the benzene theory. With regard to the last point especially, a friend of mine who is a farmer and has a lively interest in chemistry has asked me a question which I would like to share with you. My “agricultural friend” apparently believes he has traced the origins of the benzene theory. “Has Kekulé,” so ran the question, “once been a bee-keeper? You certainly know that bees too build hexagons; they know well that they can store the greatest amount of honey that way with the least amount of wax. I always liked it,” my agricultural friend went on, “When I received a new issue of the Berichte; admittedly, I don't read the articles, but I like the pictures very much. The patterns of benzene, naphthalene and especially anthracene are indeed wonderful. When I look at the pictures I always have to think of the honeycombs of my bee hives.”
— August Wilhelm von Hofmann
A. W. Hofmann, after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest (Mar 1890). Trans. in W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey and Susanne Stark, 'Hofmann's Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities', Journal of Chemical Education (1991), 68, 888.
Science quotes on:  |  Bee (26)  |  Benzene (4)  |  Hexagon (4)  |  August Kekulé (13)

[To elucidate using models] the different combining powers in elementary atoms, I … select my illustrations from that most delightful of games, croquet. Let the croquet balls represent our atoms, and let us distinguish the atoms of different elements by different colours. The white balls are hydrogen, the green ones chlorine atoms; the atoms of fiery oxygen are red, those of nitrogen, blue; the carbon atoms, lastly, are naturally represented by black balls. But we have, in addition, exhibit the different combining powers of these atoms … by screwing into the balls a number of metallic arms (tubes and pins), which correspond respectively to the combining powers of the atoms represented … to join the balls … in imitation of the atomic edifices represented.
— August Wilhelm von Hofmann
Paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (272)  |  Model (76)  |  Molecule (130)

Quotes by others about August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1)

I hope that in due time the chemists will justify their proceedings by some large generalisations deduced from the infinity of results which they have collected. For me I am left hopelessly behind and I will acknowledge to you that through my bad memory organic chemistry is to me a sealed book. Some of those here, [August] Hoffman for instance, consider all this however as scaffolding, which will disappear when the structure is built. I hope the structure will be worthy of the labour. I should expect a better and a quicker result from the study of the powers of matter, but then I have a predilection that way and am probably prejudiced in judgment.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (9 Dec 1852), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), 209-210.
Science quotes on:  |  Acknowledgment (11)  |  Better (178)  |  Book (238)  |  Building (52)  |  Chemist (86)  |  Collection (43)  |  Disappearance (22)  |  Generalization (31)  |  Hopelessness (5)  |  Infinity (68)  |  Judgment (89)  |  Labor (64)  |  Matter (322)  |  Memory (96)  |  Organic Chemistry (33)  |  Power (337)  |  Predilection (2)  |  Prejudice (65)  |  Quickness (4)  |  Result (328)  |  Seal (12)  |  Sealed Book (2)  |  Structure (215)  |  Study (434)  |  Worth (88)

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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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