His early philological studies enabled him rapidly to master the intricacies of the English language, so that he became a fluent speaker and a correct writer in our tongue. Several of his works have appeared in English first, and subsequently been translated into German.
His reputation as one of the most successful teachers of chemistry of the present day brought him many offers from German governments, for at that time he stood almost alone as a teacher of organic chemistry according to modern ideas. In 1862 he was called to Bonn, where he undertook the building of a fine chemical laboratory, but he was not permitted to finish his undertaking, for in 1803 he was appointed the successor to Mitscherlich at the Frederick William University in Berlin.
His first work in Berlin likewise consisted in the planning, erecting, and equipping of a new chemical laboratory, which was opened in 1868. It consists of a substantial brick edifice, built in the form of a hollow square, in the center of which is a large, airy, and well-lighted lecture-room, capable of seating about two hundred students. Two large courts, one on each side of the lecture-room, afford abundant light to the various work-rooms, laboratories, and smaller lecture-rooms. The entire structure occupies a lot of ground one hundred and forty by one hundred and sixty-five feet on Georgen Strasse, with an extension seventy feet wide running through to the Dorothean Strasse. On the latter are the library and residence of the professor. The situation is a central one, near the principal station of the elevated railroad (Stadtbahn), and but five minutes' walk from the university building on Unter den Linden.
Professor Hofmann's lectures are illustrated by very elaborate experiments, and the fundamental laws of the science are demonstrated by means of apparatus devised by himself for this special purpose. No other living chemist, Bunsen perhaps excepted, has invented so many new and useful forms of lecture apparatus as Hofmann. Besides his earlier papers on this subject, a season rarely passes, even now, without some new contribution to this kind of literature from his fertile pen. His lectures are so interesting, his manner so animated, that his lecture-room is thronged with students from all parts of the globe.
Soon after his removal to Berlin, Professor Hofmann founded the German Chemical Society, of which he has several times been president, and the growth of which has been largely due to his efforts. Although German in name and in language, it numbers among its twenty-seven hundred members persons of every nation where chemistry is cultivated, and its proceedings are the chief means of communication between a large portion of the chemists of this and other countries. The number of original papers published by it is larger than that of the English, French, and American chemical societies combined.