Cazenovia College’s Reisman Lecture Series continues to focus on social and cultural issues. The fall 2011 lecture, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in the Catherine Cummings Theatre, will be given by Roald Hoffmann, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (with Kenichi Fukui).
Hoffman is the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Human Letters Emeritus at Cornell University, where he has taught since 1965. As well as an accomplished chemist, he is also a playwright and poet.
Hoffmann’s lecture, “One Culture, or the Commonalities and Differences between the Arts and the Sciences,” will be presented for free and is open to the public.
“The claim of a rift between scientists and technologists on one hand, and humanists on the other, is criticized on several grounds. Using examples from chemistry, poetry, painting and ceramics, a case is made for an underlying unity of science and the arts,” Hoffman said, in regards to his lecture. “The common elements of these human activities are creation with craftsmanship, concisely communicated, in a cross-cultural and altruistic way, with aesthetics figuring importantly in a search for understanding of the universe around and within us. But there be differences...”
Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Zloczow, Poland, and came to the United States in 1949. He studied chemistry at Columbia and Harvard universities, earning his doctorate in 1962. “Applied theoretical chemistry” is the way Hoffmann likes to characterize what he teaches. He is also noted for bringing science to the general public. One of his contributions is the television course in introductory chemistry titled “The World of Chemistry,” shown widely since 1990.
As a writer, Hoffmann has carved out a land between science, poetry and philosophy, through many essays and three books. He has authored “Chemistry Imagined,” with artist Vivian Torrence; “The Same and Not the Same and Old Wine” (translated into six languages); and “New Flasks: Reflections on Science and Jewish Tradition,” with Shira Leibowitz Schmidt.
Hoffmann is also an accomplished poet and playwright. He began writing poetry in the mid-1970s, eventually publishing the first of a number of collections, “The Metamict State,” in 1987, followed three years later by “Gaps and Verges,” then “Memory Effects” (1999), “Soliton” (2002). He co-wrote a play, with fellow chemist Carl Djerassi, titled “Oxygen,” which has been performed worldwide, translated into ten languages. He also wrote “Should’ve,” and “We Have Something That Belongs to You.” He also runs a popular monthly cabaret called “Entertaining Science,” at a café in Greenwich Village, in NYC.