Kauffman is professor of chemistry at California State University, Fresno, where he has taught since 1956. Over the course of his career, he has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles explaining science to the lay public; has given lectures and chemical demonstrations in schools and other public venues; reviewed books on science, including children's books; participated in science-related community activities; and appeared widely on radio and television. He has supported the annual proclamation by Fresno mayors of National Chemistry Day and National Chemistry Week, and has helped generate considerable interest in science with his articles in the Fresno Bee, Fresno Neighbors, and other local newspapers.
In the past two decades, he has made regular contributions to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, including annual articles for the company's Yearbook of Science and the Future. These articles gave general readers some of the earliest word on superconductors, lithium batteries, fuel cells, photovoltaics, optical fibers, pesticides, cold fusion, and genetic engineering. He was also one of the first writers to tell the public about such new products such as soft contact lenses and artificial sweeteners.
Kauffman, a Guggenheim Fellow and contributing editor of nine journals, is famous in scientific circles for the variety and sheer volume of his publications, which include more than 1750 scientific papers and sixteen books aimed at the general reader, high school students and their teachers, counselors, and parents. One of his nominators for the award called him a "consummate missionary for the chemical sciences."
In 1994 Kauffman became the first recipient of his university's President's Medal of Distinction. In 1993 he received the American Chemical Society's Pimentel Award in Chemical Education and in 2000 its Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution. His other awards include the California State University System Statewide Outstanding Professorship, Manufacturing Chemists Association Award for Excellence in College
Chemistry Teaching, all three medals of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Dexter Award in the History of Chemistry, laudatory decree of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Marc-Auguste Pictet Medal of the Société de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle of Geneva, Switzerland.
The Helen M. Free Award was established in 1995 to recognize outstanding achievements in public outreach. A former president of the ACS, Dr. Free initiated many programs and activities designed to improve the public's awareness of chemistry's contributions to the quality of daily life.