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One of the University of Minnesota's most famous chemists, Isaak Maurits Kolthoff, received, posthumously, a 2012 Tekne Award and was inducted into the Minnesota Science & Technology Hall of Fame.
The Tekne Award was created by the Minnesota High Tech Association to honor people whose achievements in science and technology have made lasting contributions to the state of Minnesota and to the world. The Minnesota Science & Technology Hall of Fame is a permanent exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Isaak Kolthoff was a highly influential chemist. He is widely considered to be the father of analytical chemistry, developing it into a modern science. He was born on February 11, 1894, in Almelo, Holland. He died on March 4, 1993, in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1911, he entered the University of Utrecht, Holland, where he earned his doctorate in chemistry.
On the basis of his world-renowned reputation, he was invited to join the faculty of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Chemistry in 1927. By the time of his retirement from the university in 1962, he had published approximately 800 papers. He continued to publish approximately 150 more papers until his health failed. He also was the author of textbooks and a 30-volume treatise on analytical chemistry.
Best known to the general public is Kolthoff's work on synthetic rubber. During World War II, the government established a comprehensive research program at major industrial companies and several universities, including Minnesota. Kolthoff quickly assembled a large research group and made major contributions to the program.
Kolthoff's research, covering approximately a dozen areas of chemistry, was recognized by many medals and memberships in learned societies throughout the world. He received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the University of Chicago, the University of Groningen, Brandeis University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was knighted by the Netherlands Government as a Commander in the Order of Orange-Nassau. He received the William H. Nichols Medal in 1949, the Robert Boyle Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry in England, the Charles Medal of the Charles University in Prague, and the Fisher Award, among other awards and medals. In his honor, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, named a new chemistry research building Kolthoff Hall in 1972. When the American Chemical Society inaugurated an award for excellence in 1983, Kolthoff was the first recipient.
Many of Kolthoff’s graduate students went on to successful careers in industry and academic life and, in turn, trained many more. In 1982, it was estimated that approximately 1,100 Ph.D. holders could trace their scientific roots to Kolthoff.
The Department of Chemistry honors Kolthoff's legacy with the Kolthoff Lectureship in Chemistry, annually inviting some of the most renowned scientists in the world to present a series of lectures and meet with faculty members and students.