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Izaak Maurits Kolthoff papers

Identifier: ua-00970

Scope and Content

This collection spans Dr. Kolthoff's career, from his early days at the University of Utrecht until his death. Much of the collection consists of correspondence with people and organizations. Other materials include biographical information, publications, scrapbooks with awards, photographs, articles, and letters.


  • 1926-1994


Language of Materials

Collection materials in English, French and German

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Izaak Maurits Kolthoff (1894-1993)

Izaak Maurits Kolthoff, Ph.D. (1918) University of Utrecht. Professor and head, Division of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Minnesota (1927-1962). Internationally known pioneer and researcher in the field of analytical chemistry, with concentrations in potentiometry, conductomerty, polarography, and the formation and properties of precipitates.

Izaak Kolthoff was born in Almelo, Holland on February 11, 1894. He studied under Professor Nicholas Schoorl at the University of Utrect, earning his Ph.D. in pharmacy and chemistry in 1918. Although Schoorl was himself a Professor of Pharmacy, it was he who drew Kolthoff's attention to early papers in electro-analytical chemistry and coprecipitation and advised Kolthoff to study analytical chemistry from a scientific perspective, rather than as an empirical art. Kolthoff served as conservator of the Pharmaceutical Institute at the University of Utrecht from 1917-1927. He was appointed as professor and head of the Division of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1927, a position he held until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1962. After his retirement, he remained active as a researcher until the late 1980s.

Kolthoff was best known as the father of analytical chemistry. His research dealt with analytical and physical chemistry. His main research topics included potentimetry, conductometry, polarography, theory and application of indicators, acid-base equilibria and titrations in aqueous and non-aqueous media, formation, properties and aging of precipitates, adsorption, coprecipitation, post-precipitation, and induced reactions. He is also credited in development of the polarograph, an instrument for recording polarization of electrolytes. During World War II he served as chairman of the Committee on Analytical research Methods and supervisor of three research projects for the U.S. Government on synethic or "cold process" rubber.

Always a political and social justice activist, in the early 1950s Kolthoff got into trouble with the Un-American Activities Committee after criticizing Senator Joseph McCarthy's persecution of perceived communists. According to the committee, Kolthoff belonged to thirty-two subversive organizations; however, no action was taken against him.

Kolthoff was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary member of the American Pharmaceutical Association, and an honorary member of eight foreign chemical societies. He received Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the University of Chicago (1955), the University of Groningen (1964), Brandeis University (1974), and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1975). In 1947 the Netherlands Government knighted him a Commander in the Order of Oranje-Nassau. He was the recipient of many awards and medals, including the Robert Boyle Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry in England. In honor of his eightieth birthday, the Division of Analytical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society sponsored the I. M. Kolthoff 80th Anniversary Symposium. He is the author or co-author of nine books and some 900 publications; he is one of the two editors of the multi-volume Treatise on Analytical Chemistry.

In 1972, the Regents of the University of Minnesota named the new chemistry research building Kolthoff Hall in his honor. In 1979, the faculty of the Department of Chemistry established the Kolthoff Lectureship. Kolthoff never married, and lived most of his life a few blocks from the Chemistry building, first on the 6th floor of the Campus Club in Coffman Union and then in a Comstock Hall apartment. Long after his official retirement, he spent his days in his office, working with his lab assistant since 1955, Miron Chantooni. He died at the age of 99 on March 4, 1993.


10 boxes (8.5 cubic feet)


This collection contains the papers of Izaak Kolthoff, professor and head of the Division of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Minnesota.

Source of acquisition

Part of the collection was deposited by the Chemistry Department between 1984 and 1994.

Awards and citations were deposited by the Chemistry Department in 2014.

Related Material in University of Minnesota Archives

Department of Chemistry records

Izaak Maurits Kolthoff papers, 1926-1994
University Archives staff; updated by Katie Christian
June 2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area