Dr. Darleane C. Hoffman

Dr. Darleane C. Hoffman

Professor of Graduate School, Department of Chemistry, University of California Berkeley

Inducted in 2000

When she enrolled at Iowa State University in 1944, Dr. Darleane C. Hoffman planned to become a commercial artist. But the influence of the extraordinary teaching of a female professor in a required freshman chemistry course diverted her into a scientific career that would make her one of the world's leading experts in the nuclear and radiochemistry.

In the 1950s when she sought a position in the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the radiochemistry goup, she was told, "We don't hire women in that division." Undeterred, Dr. Hoffman did obtain a position in the group due to an enlightened male group leader and became a division leader of the isotope and nuclear chemistry division, the first woman to head a scientific division there. After 30 years, she accepted a position as Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (only the second woman with tenure in the department), and also served as Leader of the Heavy Element Nuclear & Radiochemistry Group of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

In the 1970s, Dr. Hoffman discovered traces of primordial plutonium 244 in natural ores. Until then, the radioactive element had been thought to be only man-made. She is also a pioneer in the study of the chemical and nuclear properties of the elements 104 through 108, far beyond plutonium. In 1991, she helped establish and became the first director of the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute for Transactinium Science at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She served in that position until 1996. She won the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1997, and the Priestly Medal (the highest honor conferred by the American Chemical Society) in 2000. Honors received since her induction into the WITI Hall of Fame include Honorary Doctorates from Clark University in 2000 and University of Bern, Switzerland in 2001, and the Sigma Xi William Procter Award for Scientific Achievement in 2003. In 2007 she was selected to recieve the Astananoff Search and Discovery Award from Iowa State University.

Dr. Hoffman believes studies of how heavy elements divide through spontaneous fission and decay will make it possible to understand and predict the limits to nuclear stability. Her early studies of radionuclide migration in underground environments have helped to formulate methods to deal successfully, economically, and rationally with safe storage of nuclear waste and its isolation from the environment.

Dr. Hoffman was editor and co-author of the book, "The Transuranium People: the Inside Story" by D. C. Hoffman, A. Ghiorso, and G. T. Seaborg (2000) which gives a more "popular" account of the discovery of the elements heavier than uranium.

Profile at the time of induction in 2000