Izaak Kolthoff was born in Almelo, Holland, on February 11, 1894. He entered the University of Utrecht, Holland in 1911.
Professor Kolthoff published his first paper in 1915 on the theory of acid-base titrations using the recently developed theories of weak and strong electrolytes and Sorenson's introduction of the concept of pH. This paper is concerned with the analysis and location of the end points in the titration of phosphoric acid. On the basis of his worldwide reputation, he was appointed to a one-year trial appointment at the University of Minnesota by Dean Sam Lind and thus joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1927. He remained in this department until his retirement in 1962.
Professor Kolthoff’s research, covering a dozen areas of chemistry, focussed primarily on constructing a firm scientific foundation for Analytical Chemistry. Widely considered to be the Father of Analytical Chemistry, his research transformed Analytical Chemistry from a collection of empirical recipes and prescriptions to a fundamental branch of modern chemistry. Professor Kolthoff and his students studied acidimetry, alkalimetry, acid-base indicators, gravimetric analysis, volumetric analysis, iodometry, the theory of colloids and crystal growth thereby establishing a scientific basis for gravimetry.
In addition to his prolific amount of research publications, Professor Kolthoff wrote many books, including the multi-volume monograph "Volumetric Analysis" (with Vernon Stenger, Ph.D. 1933), "Polarography" with J. J. Lingane, and "Potentiometric Titrations" with H. A. Laitinen. Kolthoff was also the editor-in-chief of the "Treatise on Analytical Chemistry" (nineteen volumes in two editions).
His most influential book was probably "Quantitative Inorganic Analysis" with his student Ernest B. Sandell (Ph.D. 1932), who was also a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. This text is widely recognized as the progenitor of all modern textbooks on Analytical Chemistry. It appeared in four editions (the last co-authored with his Minnesota colleagues Professors Sandell, Meehan and Bruckenstein) and in six languages (including Russian and Japanese).
Kolthoff died, less than a month after his ninety ninth birthday, in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 4, 1993.