Tuesday, February 4, 2014

#chempaperaday Day 19/365: "Hitler's Gift and the Era of Biosynthesis"

It was such a busy day for me. I was doing my reactions as planned, but then the possibility of having a snow day tomorrow made me realize that I have to quit/modify them just in case I won't be able to be in the lab tomorrow. Got home tired and had my dinner and read this amazing article (free).

I have a post about the book Hitler's Scientists and I learned a lot from that book. Hundreds of scientists from different fields had to/chose to leave Germany during the first half of 20th century. So, this article was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. It's written to "celebrate the centennary of JBC" and summarizes the interesting lives and works of three scientists.

The first scientist is Fritz Lipmann. What I liked about the part on his life is the author's way of pointing the importance of chemistry : "Lipmann realized that the most fruitful approach to biological problems was through chemistry." Another detail that I think is important in his career is that he was given "complete freedom to follow his ideas" at MGH.

Second important name is Rudolph Schoenheimer. Like Lipmann, he spent some years to learn chemistry and he is famous for tagging molecules with isotopes. I knew that many analytical techniques were not available at that time. But, learning that they used "combustion" and measuring density of compounds made me realize that those people were great scientists.

The third scientist is Konrad Bloch who is also a Nobel Prize winner. He became interested in science by an organic chemistry lecture. An interesting detail about his immigration is that he showed his acceptance letter to obtain a visa. But, in fact he did not have any funding. I believe he wouldn't have gotten the visa without a proof of financial support. He was in Schoenheimer's lab. But, after his death the group members chose their projects by a "lottery" though he is not really sure if this was the way they chose them. A fun fact about his life is that he went to Bermuda to collect a molecule that is abundant in shark livers. But, he realized that it's not an easy task and he came back.

I think this article is a fantastic read. It's a history of chemistry, medicine and biochemistry written in a beautiful style.

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