Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Złoczów, Poland. Having survived World War II, he came to the U.S. in 1949 and studied chemistry at Columbia and Harvard Universities (Ph.D. 1962). Since1965, he has been at Cornell University. He has received many of the honors of his profession, including the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared with Kenichi Fukui).
As a writer, Hoffmann has carved out a land between science, poetry and philosophy, through many essays, five non-fiction books, three plays and five published collection of poetry, including bilingual Spanish-English and Russian-English editions published in Madrid and Moscow.
Hoffmann is an alumnus of the 1955 Science Talent Search.