Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/851

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831
SKETCH OF AUGUST WILHELM HOFMANN.

SKETCH OF AUGUST WILHELM HOFMANN.
By EDWARD J. HALLOCK, Ph. D.

THE recent visit of this distinguished scholar and chemist to our city is worthy of more than a passing notice, and we would commemorate it in a feeble manner by placing before our readers a sketch and portrait of the man who has contributed so much to the advancement of science and of human progress.

August Wilhelm Hofmann was born in Giessen, April 8, 1818. After completing the usual gymnasium course, he entered the University of Giessen at the age of eighteen. Having acquired a taste for the modern languages during his travels in Italy and France, he at first took up the study of philology, to which he devoted himself assiduously for several years. To this we may undoubtedly attribute much of his power as a writer and speaker. At this time his father, who was an architect, was engaged on the plans for Liebig's new laboratory, and thus young Hofmann became acquainted with that famous chemist. His influence turned the whole course of Hofmann's life, for he at once took up the study of chemistry, and we next hear of him as the assistant of Liebig. He remained in this position until the spring of 1845, when he was appointed professor in Bonn, but he was not destined to remain long upon the Rhine, for, in the latter part of the same year, he was called to London and placed in charge of the newly established Royal College of Chemistry. Through the exertions of Professor Hofmann, and his popularity as a lecturer and teacher, this school soon acquired such a prominence that, in 1853, the Government united it with the Royal School of Mines. It was during this time that he made several of those important researches which have resulted in discoveries of the greatest importance. In addition to his other labors, he found time to deliver courses of lectures to working-men, which were well attended, and to investigate various technical and sanitary questions upon which his opinion was sought. His success in solving difficult expert problems soon won for him an influential position in England. In 1856 he was appointed Warden of the English Mint, which position he continued to hold until he left England. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1861, and ten years later was nominated President of the London Chemical Society. He served on the jury in the International Exhibitions held in London in 1851 and 1862. Among the important investigations of public interest was a chemical examination of the waters of London, and, with Professor Graham, an investigation of the bitter ales at a time when the brewers were suspected of using strychnine as an adulterant.