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Hoffman, Darleane C.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Hoffman, Darleane C.

(November 8, 1926 - )

Quick Facts

Alumni Darleane Hoffman is considered a world authority on spontaneous nuclear fission.

Source: University Archives,

Darleane Christian Hoffman, a native of Terril, Iowa and internationally recognized nuclear chemist, received her BS (1948) in Chemistry from Iowa State College (now University). While she originally planned to major in applied art, she took the home economics introduction to chemistry course with Iowa State chemistry professor Nellie Naylor, and promptly changed the trajectory of her career. Hoffman obtained her PhD (1951) in Physical (Nuclear) Chemistry from Iowa State College. After finishing her doctoral work, Darleane Christian married Marvin M. Hoffman, a physicist.

She was employed as a chemist (1952-1953) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (TN) and then joined the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (NM). Dr. Hoffman was a staff member of the Radiochemistry Group (1953-1971), the Associate Group Leader of the Radiochemistry Group (1971-1979), the Division Leader of the Chemistry-Nuclear Chemistry Division (1979-1982) and Division Leader of the Isotope and Nuclear Chemistry Division (1982-1984) all at Los Alamos.

In 1984, she left Los Alamos to become Professor (1984-1991), Professor Emerita (1991-1993), and Professor (1994-present, Graduate School) in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. She also held appointments in the affiliated Nuclear Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1984-present) including Faculty Senior Scientist (1984-2001) and Group Leader (1984-1996) and Co-Group Leader (1996-2001) for the Heavy Element Nuclear & Radiochemistry Group. She is currently Faculty Senior Scientist (2002-present). Dr. Hoffman was also Charter Director (1991-1996) for the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).

Dr. Hoffman’s research has focused on the capture and analysis of heavy elements (also known as transuranium elements, whose atomic number is greater than 92) including the rapid chemical separation of short-lived fission products, the search for heavy elements in nature which included the discovery of plutonium-244 among others, heavy ion reactions and production of new neutron-rich heavy element isotopes, and atom-at-a-time studies of the chemical and nuclear properties of the heaviest elements. Dr. Hoffman has published more than 280 peer-reviewed publications and is considered a world authority on spontaneous nuclear fission. She taught classes in nuclear chemistry for both undergraduate and graduate students, served as major professor for 19 PhD students, 3 MS students, and as a mentor for numerous others. She edited and co-authored (with Albert Ghioros and Glenn T. Seaborg) the book The Transuranium People: The Inside Story (2000).

She has been a member of numerous advisory committees focusing on nuclear facilities and forensics, nuclear technology, and the status of women in science. Dr. Hoffman has also been a member and recognized by professional organizations including the American Chemical Society (Fellow), the American Institute of Chemists, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other honorary societies. She has received numerous honors, including the National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Nuclear Chemistry (1983, first woman recipient), the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame (2000), the Sigma Xi Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement (2003), the John V. Atanasoff Research and Discovery Award, Iowa State University (2007), and the Hevesy Medal Award (2010). Of special note is her reception of the American Chemical Society Garvan-Olin Medal (1990), the U.S. National Medal of Science (1997), and the ACS Priestley Medal (2000), being only the second woman to receive the Medal.

Dr. Hoffman is a Fellow for the following Societies, including the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Institute of Chemists; the American Physical Society; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has also received Honorary Doctorates from Clark University, USA (2000) and the University of Bern, Switzerland (2001).

Darleane Christian Hoffman and Marvin M. Hoffman have two children, Maureane and Daryl.

Selected Sources

College of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley Curriculum Vitae:

Darleane C. Hoffman Oral History Interview, MS-650, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library and online at

Darleane C. Hoffman Papers, RS 21/7/100, University Archives, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library


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