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Van 't Hoff chair for Prof. Ben L. Feringa (2003)

Prof. Feringa

Prof. Ben L. Feringa (1951) has been Professor of Synthetic Organic Chemistry at the University of Groningen since 1988. In 2003, the University established the Jacobus H. van ’t Hoff Distinguished Chair in Molecular Sciences in his honour. The new chair recognizes Feringa for his creative and innovative work that led to the discovery of the molecular motor.

The chair is named after the first winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1901, the Rotterdam-born chemist Jacobus H. van ’t Hoff, who is considered to be the founder of stereochemistry. In 1874, Van ’t Hoff published a study on the rotation of polarised light when it passes through a solution containing asymmetric carbon atoms. Van ’t Hoff was one of the first to realise how important it is to understand the three-dimensional spatial structure of atoms and molecules. Without this knowledge it is impossible to explain many of the physical and biological properties of chemical compounds.

Feringa is a worthy successor to Van ’t Hoff. He is a sharp-witted chemist who has managed to force various breakthroughs in the fields of catalysed, enantioselective synthesis of stereoisomer molecules, supramolecular chemistry and nanotechnology. His discovery in 1999 of a molecular motor (a unidirectional rotating molecule powered by light) is generally considered to be a discovery of international significance. In 2011, Feringa made the headlines worldwide with a Nature publication describing an electrically powered nanovehicle that moved autonomously using four such molecular motors as wheels.

Feringa has been awarded many national and international prizes, including the NWO Spinoza Prize in 2004, which is the highest academic distinction in the Netherlands. In 2008 he was made an Academy Professor by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Feringa is the vice president of the KNAW and chair of the board of the Physics department of this institute. In 2011 he received the Van ’t Hoff award, which is presented by the University of Amsterdam once every ten years for work in the field of chemistry.

Last modified:12 October 2018 11.42 a.m.
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