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Purifying penicillin


Studying chemistry and getting married
Christian de Duve Scientist
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So I got the job and I was allowed to... to study chemistry and do all the labs in the daytime and I took care of his private patients at night. So I was... I was pretty busy. But nevertheless I still found time to read almost everything that had been written on insulin and diabetes, to write a 400 page book in which all this was... was described and discussed. The book was actually published in 1945 under the name Glucose, Diabète et InsulineGlucose, Diabetes and Insulin. I used some of the work that I had done to get a kind of PhD which was called l'Agrégation de l'Enseignement Supérieur – a sort of glorified PhD that gives you a sort of licence to teach in the university. What else did I do? I got married. So, in 1943, I got married with a lovely girl who still happens to be my wife today, and we had our first child; our first boy was born in 1944. My wife was the daughter of a physician – a truly... a true country doctor in a small city in... called Saint-Trond... Sint-Truiden. But the family, also, was rather unusual because there were a number of cousins: four beautiful daughters, of which one happened to be... to marry Aldous Huxley, the famous English author. Another one married a Dutch artist who... whose daughter is a poet and a writer and used to be married – he's dead now – to a man called Robert White, in the United States, and Robert White is a grandson of the most famous American architect, Stanford White, and so on. I mean, it's an interesting family. So all that happened during the war, and September 1944 arrived and the city of Louvain was liberated, and suddenly life changed again. In the meantime, Louvain had been bombed very, very badly a few weeks before the actual landing in Normandy.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: 1945, Glucose, Diabète et Insuline, Glucose, Diabetes and Insulin, 1943, 1944, Sint-Truiden, September 1944, Louvain, Aldous Huxley, Robert White, Stanford White

Duration: 3 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008