Biochemistry by Isabelle Kaup

Rudolph Marcus, Melvin Calvin, Hans Krebs

General Description

Definition - the branch of science concerned with the chemical and physicochemical processes that occur within living organisms.

At its most basic, biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes occurring in living matter. However, this simple definition encompasses an incredibly diverse field of research that touches nearly all aspects of our lives.

One of the most pressing issues in our society, environmental degradation, is being addressed by biochemists. A few examples of work currently being performed include improvements in the efficiency of photosynthesis to increase crop yields, bioremediation of polluted soils, development of new feed-stocks, chemistries for the production of biofuels, genetic mapping of ecosystems to monitor biodiversity, and methodologies for boosting biological capture of carbon. These and other biochemical technologies may play a crucial role in our efforts to find a sustainable means of living.

Perhaps the most obvious application of biochemistry in our everyday existence is in the field of health research. Biochemistry has been a key to our growing understanding of a myriad of health issues; from diabetes to arteriosclerosis to cancer. The tools of biochemists have identified the gene, protein and pathway disruptions that lead to disease and, in many cases, point us to preventions, treatments or cures. From aspirin to interleukins, the treatment of human disease relies heavily on biochemistry.

Many other, less obvious, aspects of our society are also being altered and improved by biochemical research. Industry is being transformed as biological chemistry is being used to generate new materials with novel properties or to improve the efficiency of older processes. Law enforcement increasingly relies on biochemistry-based forensics to provide evidence in investigations. Archaeology is rapidly advancing as genetic and isotopic investigations of our ancestral remains are illuminating much of human history and pre-history.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the role biochemistry plays in all our lives.

Rudolph Marcus

Marcus was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Esther (née Cohen) and Myer Marcus. His interest in the sciences began at a young age. He excelled at mathematics at Baron Byng High School. He then studied at McGill University under Dr. Carl A. Winkler, who had studied under Cyril Hinshelwood at Oxford University. At McGill, Marcus took more math courses than an average chemistry student, which would later aid him in creating his theory on electron transfer.[3]

He earned a B.Sc. in 1943 and a Ph.D. in 1946, both from McGill University. In 1958, Marcus became a naturalized citizen of the United States. After graduating, in 1946, he worked at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. In 1952, at the University of North Carolina, he developed Rice-Ramsperger-Kassel-Marcus theory by combining RRK theory with transition state theory. In 1964, he taught at the University of Illinois.[4]

He is a professor at Caltech and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science.

Electron transfer is one of the simplest forms of a chemical reaction. It consists of one outer-sphere electron transfer between substances of the same atomic structure likewise to Marcus’s studies between bivalent and trivalent iron ions. Electron transfer may be one of the most basic forms of chemical reaction but without it life cannot exist. Electron transfer is used in all respiratory functions as well as photosynthesis. In the process of oxidizing food molecules, 2 hydrogen ions, 2 electrons, and an oxygen molecule react to make an exothermic reaction as well as H2O (water). Due to fact that electron transfer is such a broad, common, as well as essential reaction within nature, Marcus's theory has become vital within the field of chemistry.

2H+ + 2e− + 1/2 O2 → H2O + heat

A type of chemical reaction linked to his many studies of electron transfer would be the transfer of an electron between metal ions in different states of oxidation. An example of this type of chemical reaction would be one between a bivalent and a trivalent iron ion in an aqueous solution. In Marcus's time chemists were astonished at the slow rate in which this specific reaction took place. This attracted many chemists in the 1950s and is also what began Marcus's interests in electron transfer. Marcus made many studies based on the principles that were found within this chemical reaction, and through his studies was able to create his famous Marcus theory. This theory gave way to new experimental programs that contributed to all branches within chemistry

Honorary degrees were conferred to Marcus by the University of Chicago in 1983, by the University of Goteborg in 1986, by the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1987, by McGill in 1988, by Queen's University in 1993, by the University of New Brunswick also in 1993 and by the University of Hyderabad, in India, which conferred the degree of Doctor of Science in 2012.

Before receiving the Nobel Prize in 1992,[1] Marcus received the National Medal of Science in 1989,[6] the Irving Langmuir Award of the American Chemical Society in 1978,[7] the Willard Gibbs Award in 1988, the Theodore William Richards Award in 1990, the Pauling Medals in 1991, and the Remsen and Edgar Fahs Smith Awards in 1991, the Peter Debye Award of the American Chemical Society in 1988, the Robinson Award in 1982, the Centenary Medals of the Faraday Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1988, Columbia University's Chandler Medal in 1983, Ohio State's William Lloyd Evans Award in 1990, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1985 and the Hirschfelder Prize in Chemistry in 1993. Marcus has been a Member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1970, and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1973.[7] He won the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1984.[8]

He also received a Professorial Fellowship at University College, Oxford from 1975 to 1976.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973, the American Philosophical Society in 1990, received honorary membership in the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1991, in the Royal Society in 1987 and in the Royal Society of Canada in 1993.[9]

Melvin Calvin

Calvin was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Elias Calvin and Rose Herwitz,[3] Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire. His father was born in Lithuania (then part of Russian Empire) and his mother in Georgia (also part of Russian Empire).

As a small child Calvin's family moved to Detroit; he graduated from Central High School in 1928.[4] Melvin Calvin earned his Bachelor of Science from the Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now known as Michigan Technological University) in 1931 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1935. He then spent the next four years doing postdoctoral work at the University of Manchester. He married Marie Genevieve Jemtegaard in 1942,[3] and they had three children, two daughters and a son.

Calvin joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1937 and was promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 1947. Using the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin, Andrew Benson and James Bassham mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis, starting from its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide to its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds.[5][6] In doing so, Calvin, Benson and Bassham showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacturing of organic compounds, rather than on carbon dioxide as was previously believed. Calvin was the sole recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for what is sometimes known as the Calvin-Benson-Bassham Cycle. Calvin wrote an autobiography three decades later titled Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey.[7] During the 1950s he was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research. In 1963 he was given the additional title of Professor of Molecular Biology. He was founder and Director of the Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics and simultaneously Associate Director of Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, where he conducted much of his research until his retirement in 1980. In his final years of active research, he studied the use of oil-producing plants as renewable sources of energy. He also spent many years testing the chemical evolution of life and wrote a book on the subject that was published in 1969.[8]

Calvin was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Elias Calvin and Rose Herwitz,[3] Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire. His father was born in Lithuania (then part of Russian Empire) and his mother in Georgia (also part of Russian Empire).

As a small child Calvin's family moved to Detroit; he graduated from Central High School in 1928.[4] Melvin Calvin earned his Bachelor of Science from the Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now known as Michigan Technological University) in 1931 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1935. He then spent the next four years doing postdoctoral work at the University of Manchester. He married Marie Genevieve Jemtegaard in 1942,[3] and they had three children, two daughters and a son.

Calvin joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1937 and was promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 1947. Using the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin, Andrew Benson and James Bassham mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis, starting from its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide to its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds.[5][6] In doing so, Calvin, Benson and Bassham showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacturing of organic compounds, rather than on carbon dioxide as was previously believed. Calvin was the sole recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for what is sometimes known as the Calvin-Benson-Bassham Cycle. Calvin wrote an autobiography three decades later titled Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey.[7] During the 1950s he was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research. In 1963 he was given the additional title of Professor of Molecular Biology. He was founder and Director of the Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics and simultaneously Associate Director of Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, where he conducted much of his research until his retirement in 1980. In his final years of active research, he studied the use of oil-producing plants as renewable sources of energy. He also spent many years testing the chemical evolution of life and wrote a book on the subject that was published in 1969.[8]

In his 2011 television history of Botany for the BBC, Timothy Walker, Director of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, criticised Calvin's treatment of Andrew Benson, claiming that Calvin had got the credit for Benson's work after firing him, and had failed to mention Benson's role when writing his autobiography decades later.[9] Benson himself has also mentioned being fired by Calvin, and has complained about not being mentioned in his autobiography.[10]

Calvin was featured on the 2011 volume of the American Scientists collection of US postage stamps, along with Asa Gray, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, and Severo Ochoa. This was the third volume in the series, the first two having been released in 2005 and 2008.

Hans Krebs

Krebs was born in Hildesheim, Germany, to Georg Krebs, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, and Alma Krebs (née Davidson). He was the middle of three children, older sister Elisabeth and younger brother Wolfgang. He attended the famous old Gymnasium Andreanum in his home town. Before completing his secondary school education (by six months), he was drafted in the Imperial German Army during World War I in September 1918. He was allowed to appear in an emergency higher school leaving certificate, which he passed in such a good grade that he suspected the examiners of being “unduly lenient and sympathetic”.[9] The war ended after two months and his conscription ended. He decided to follow his father's profession and entered the University of Göttingen in December 1918 to study medicine. In 1919 he transferred to the University of Freiburg. In 1923 he published his first technical paper on tissue staining technique, the study which he started under the guidance of his teacher Wilhelm von Mollendorf in 1920. He completed his medical course in December 1923. To obtain a medical license he spent one year at the Third Medical Clinic in the University of Berlin. By then he turned his ambition from becoming a practising physician to medical researcher, particularly towards chemistry. In 1924 he studied at the Department of Chemistry at the Pathological Institute of the Charité Hospital, Berlin, for informal training in chemistry and biochemistry. He finally earned his M.D. degree in 1925 from the University of Hamburg.[10][11]

In 1926 Krebs joined Otto Heinrich Warburg as a research assistant at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology in Dahlem, Berlin. He was paid a modest 4800 marks per year. After four years in 1930, with 16 publications to his credit, his mentor Warburg urged him to move on and he took up the position of Assistant in the Department of Medicine at the Municipal Hospital in Altona (now part of Hamburg). The next year he moved to the Medical Clinic of the University of Freiburg. At Freiburg he was in-charge of about 40 patients, and was at liberty to do his own research. Before a year was over at Freiburg, he, with a research student Kurt Henseleit, postulated the metabolic pathway for urea formation, now known as the ornithine cycle of urea synthesis. (Sometimes also referred to as the Krebs-Henseleit cycle. Together they also developed a complex solution for studying blood flow in arteries or perfusion ex vivo called Krebs-Henseleit solution or buffer.)[12][13] In 1932 he worked out the basic chemical reactions of urea cycle, which established his scientific reputation.

Krebs life as a reputed German scientist came to an abrupt halt because of his Jewish ancestry. With the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party to power, Germany decreed the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (the removal of all non-Aryans and anti-Nazis from professional occupations). Krebs received official dismissal from his job in April 1933, and his service was terminated on 1 July. An admirer, Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins at the University of Cambridge, immediately came to his rescue and persuaded the university to recruit Krebs to work with him in the Department of Biochemistry.[14] By July 1933 he settled in Cambridge with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Although he was restricted to bring only his personal belongings, he was fortunate to be allowed to take his equipment and research samples to England, as they proved to be pivotal to his later discoveries, especially the manometer developed by Warburg specifically for the measurement of oxygen consumption in thin slices of tissues; it was the basis for his research.[15] He was appointed as Demonstrator in biochemistry in 1934 and in 1935 the University of Sheffield offered him a post of Lecturer in Pharmacology, with a more spacious laboratory and double the salary; he worked there for 19 years. University of Sheffield opened a Department of Biochemistry (now Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) in 1938 and Krebs became its first Head, and eventually Professor in 1945. Krebs took over the running of the Sorby Research Institute in 1943. In 1944, the British Medical Research Council established the MRC Unit for Cell Metabolism Research at Sheffield, and Krebs was appointed as the Director. With this his laboratory became so expanded that the locals jokingly nicknamed it “Krebs's Empire”. He moved with his MRC unit to the University of Oxford in 1954 as Whitley Professor of Biochemistry, the post he held till his retirement in 1967. The editorial board of Biochemical Journal extended their good wishes on his retirement, but in return he promised to keep them busy (by producing scientific papers). He continued research and took his MRC unit to the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. From there he published over 100 research papers.[10][11][16][17]

In 1926 Krebs joined Otto Heinrich Warburg as a research assistant at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology in Dahlem, Berlin. He was paid a modest 4800 marks per year. After four years in 1930, with 16 publications to his credit, his mentor Warburg urged him to move on and he took up the position of Assistant in the Department of Medicine at the Municipal Hospital in Altona (now part of Hamburg). The next year he moved to the Medical Clinic of the University of Freiburg. At Freiburg he was in-charge of about 40 patients, and was at liberty to do his own research. Before a year was over at Freiburg, he, with a research student Kurt Henseleit, postulated the metabolic pathway for urea formation, now known as the ornithine cycle of urea synthesis. (Sometimes also referred to as the Krebs-Henseleit cycle. Together they also developed a complex solution for studying blood flow in arteries or perfusion ex vivo called Krebs-Henseleit solution or buffer.)[12][13] In 1932 he worked out the basic chemical reactions of urea cycle, which established his scientific reputation.

Krebs life as a reputed German scientist came to an abrupt halt because of his Jewish ancestry. With the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party to power, Germany decreed the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (the removal of all non-Aryans and anti-Nazis from professional occupations). Krebs received official dismissal from his job in April 1933, and his service was terminated on 1 July. An admirer, Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins at the University of Cambridge, immediately came to his rescue and persuaded the university to recruit Krebs to work with him in the Department of Biochemistry.[14] By July 1933 he settled in Cambridge with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Although he was restricted to bring only his personal belongings, he was fortunate to be allowed to take his equipment and research samples to England, as they proved to be pivotal to his later discoveries, especially the manometer developed by Warburg specifically for the measurement of oxygen consumption in thin slices of tissues; it was the basis for his research.[15] He was appointed as Demonstrator in biochemistry in 1934 and in 1935 the University of Sheffield offered him a post of Lecturer in Pharmacology, with a more spacious laboratory and double the salary; he worked there for 19 years. University of Sheffield opened a Department of Biochemistry (now Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) in 1938 and Krebs became its first Head, and eventually Professor in 1945. Krebs took over the running of the Sorby Research Institute in 1943. In 1944, the British Medical Research Council established the MRC Unit for Cell Metabolism Research at Sheffield, and Krebs was appointed as the Director. With this his laboratory became so expanded that the locals jokingly nicknamed it “Krebs's Empire”. He moved with his MRC unit to the University of Oxford in 1954 as Whitley Professor of Biochemistry, the post he held till his retirement in 1967. The editorial board of Biochemical Journal extended their good wishes on his retirement, but in return he promised to keep them busy (by producing scientific papers). He continued research and took his MRC unit to the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. From there he published over 100 research papers.[10][11][16][17]