Izaak Maurits (Piet) Kolthoff

Location: Third Floor, East Wing, North Wall, Sequence 1

Source: Chemical Heritage Foundation

Sponsor: Ramon F. Rolf

Kolthoff was a major architect of modern analytical chemistry who helped bring this subject from an empirical art to a scientific discipline. In a long life he published nearly 1,000 research papers and nine books.

Born in Almelo (eastern Holland) Kolthoff received the Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht in 1918 (by which time he had already published 33 papers). After nine years on the faculty there he moved to the University of Minnesota as professor and chief of the analytical chemistry division, where he remained until retirement (1962) and thereafter.

Among the many areas to which Kolthoff made seminal contributions were acid-base titrations, buffers and indicators, potentiometric and conductometric titrations, the properties of precipitates, polarography and amperometry, emulsion polymerization and non-aqueous solvents. As each research area was brought to a close, Kolthoff would write a monograph on the subject, among them "Acid-Base Indicators", "Conductometric Titrations", "Potentiometric Titrations", "Volumetric Analysis" and others. His "Textbook of Quantitative Inorganic Analysis" (written with E. B. Sandell) was widely used. He coedited the multivolumed "Treatise on Analytical Chemistry". Among his numerous awards were the first ACS Analytical Division's Award for Excellence in Teaching (1983), and the Nichols (1949) and Willard Gibbs (1964) medals. Kolthoff was one of the few analytical chemists elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was knighted in the Netherlands.

Kolthoff was politically active. He helped scientists escape Nazi Germany, campaigned against Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's witch-hunts, and protested the use of nuclear weapons. An all-around person, he enjoyed sports (horseback riding, tennis), music and the arts.