The chemist, inventor and entrepreneur Dr. Otto Hoffmann
Dr. Otto Hoffmann was born in the year 1854 as Carl Franz Otto Hoffmann in Eisdorf, a small town at the foot of the Harz region. His father was the mayor of the village and earned his money as farmer and horse groom. Otto remained the only child from the second wife. When he was 10 years old his family moved to Halle, where, after his father died, Otto went to the Francke Foundation boarding school. Despite fi nancial problems, he studied in Berlin and Leipzig and received his PhD in Würzburg in 1878 on „the infl uence of zinc and iodine allyl on acet ethyl acetate and diethyl acetethyl acetate“.
Before getting to know the dentist Dr. Robert Richter who had been educated in the USA, he, amongst other things, developed dyestuffs for today’s BASF and had a number of procedures for the synthesis of water soluble indulines patented.
Richter in turn, was on the look out for a resourceful chemist who would be able to develop a dental cement similar to that designed by Rostaing de Rostagni, the composition of which he had however taken to his grave.
Otto Hoffmann started looking for a solution to the problem and actually did fi nd a formula which not only replicated Rostaing’s dentinogenes but even surpassed them considerably in terms of quality.He thereupon finally settled in Berlin and together with a companion founded a Company in order to produce and market the zinc phosphate cement which he had developed.
The product quickly found many takers across the world, so that the company had achieved a monopolistic position by the outbreak of the First World War. Dr. Hoffmann also developed a number of other products for dentistry, but phosphate cement was to be his most lasting invention.
The work of this dental industry pioneer lives on today, not least in the products that carry his name: Hoffmann´s.
The cosmopolitan, art lover and family man
Otto Hoffmann loved to travel. He went to the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and in 1903 he undertook a fi eld expedition to Spitzbergen with the ship Auguste Victoria. Not only vast distances, but also great heights attracted him.
As a member of the Berlin “Verein für Luftschiffahrt” (association of airship travel), he took part in several balloon ascents. His mountain excursions led him to the highest peaks in the Alps.
At a ball by the Berlin Alpine Association in 1904, Otto met his late great love: Lucie Steeger, who was 28 years younger than him. They were already wed in July of the following year in the newly inaugurated Berlin Cathedral. They had three children: Helmut (1906), Ingeborg (1909) and Dietbert (1916). As patrons and collectors of contemporary art, they went to see many exhibitions by the Berlin Secession together.
Otto Hoffmann´s love of arts also had a musical side to it: the piano. He played three hours a day in a music room which was especially designed for that purpose. His son Dietbert remembered, that as a child, he would often sit under the grand piano and listen to his father play.
However, Otto Hoffmann´s real elixir remained his work as a chemist, which he continued until he was 83 years old. When he passed away in 1938 a large congregation of mourners escorted him to his last resting-place in the Dahlem forest cemetery.