Women in Technology Hall of Fame

Dr. Darleane C. Hoffman

Dr. Darleane C. Hoffman

Professor of Graduate School, Department of Chemistry, University of California Berkeley

Inducted in 2000

Darleane Hoffman is a nuclear chemist who was one of the researchers to confirm the existence of seaborgium, element 106. She is a senior scientist in the nuclear science division of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and a professor at the graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley.

Darleane believes the studies of how heavy elements divide through spontaneous fission and decay will make it possible to understand and predict the limits to nuclear stability.

In 1991, Darleane helped establish and became the first director of the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute for Transactinium Science at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She served in that position until 1996.

In the 70s, Darleane discovered traces of primordial plutonium 244 in natural ores. Until then, the radioactive element had been thought to be only human-made. She is a pioneer in the study of the chemical and nuclear properties of the elements 104 through 108, far beyond plutonium.

In the 50s, when Darleane sought a position in the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the radiochemistry group, she heard, "We don't hire women in that division." Undeterred, Darleane obtained a position in the group due to an enlightened male group leader and became a division leader of the isotope and nuclear chemistry division.

After 30 years, she accepted a position as a professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley (only the second woman with tenure in that department), and also served as Leader of the Heavy Element Nuclear & Radiochemistry Group of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

When she enrolled at Iowa State University in 1944, Darleane planned to become a commercial artist. But the influence of the extraordinary teaching of a female professor in a required freshman chemistry course diverted her into a scientific career that would make her one of the world's leading experts in nuclear and radiochemistry.

Her early studies of radionuclide migration in underground environments have helped formulate methods to deal successfully, economically, and rationally with safe storage of nuclear waste and its isolation from the environment.

Darleane’s awards and honors include: honorary doctorates from the universities of Clark and Bern; the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement from Sigma Xi; the Astananoff Search and Discovery Award from Iowa State University; the National Medal of Science; and the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society. In 2000, she published "The Transuranium People: the Inside Story" with D. C. Hoffman, A. Ghiorso, and G. T. Seaborg.