February 11, 1894–March 4, 1993
BY JOHANNES F. COETZEE
IZAAK MAURITS KOLTHOFF is widely regarded as the father of modern analytical chemistry. His monumental research productivity (over 900 papers and numerous seminal textbooks and monographs) as well as his highly effective training of graduate students and postdoctoral associates were major factors in the elevation of analytical chemistry from a predominantly empirical art to a discipline based on sound fundamental principles.
It was September 1951. Professor Kolthoff leaned back in his chair and put a watch on his desk. "I am frightfully busy," he said, "but I want to talk to you two for half an hour." Bart van't Riet (from Holland) and I (from South Africa) had just arrived in Minneapolis as new graduate students planning on doing our doctoral research with Kolthoff as mentor. I was immediately struck by Kolthoff's unusually expressive face, especially his large, luminous, and intense eyes. For the next half-hour he mapped out our future activities and what he expected from us. At times he seemed to be lost in thought, looking up at the ceiling as he talked, except that now and then, at unexpected moments, he would fix us with a penetrating stare to determine, as we were to learn later in numerous research conferences,