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Theorell's lab: Carl and Gerty Cori


Working at Theorell's lab
Christian de Duve Scientist
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But his lab, of course, had attracted more and more of young promising scientists, and so that's how I got to know several really prominent people. First of all, there was Theorell's first assistant... was a man called Sune Bergström; Bergström who shared the Nobel prize with Bengt Samuelsson... maybe sometime in... in the '80s, I believe. Another visitor there who spent a lot of time was a man called Britton Chance. Very interesting personality; Britton Chance was a very wealthy... the son of a very wealthy family in the United States and he... he was... I don't know exactly what his training was – I think it was probably physics, because during the war he was very much involved in building equipment... I think radar equipment, or something of that kind, for the American navy. But after the war he became interested... he worked with Roughton first in Cambridge, I think, working on the... the spectroscopic, or spectrometrics... spectophotometric study of enzyme kinetics. And, of course, haemoprotein enzymes are perfect material for that kind of study, because the haem group has a spectrum in the visible region, and part of it in the UV region, and you can follow the kinetics of the reactions they... they catalyse by following the changes in... the spectro changes. And Britton Chance actually built several pieces of equipment that were used for rapid... following rapid reactions. And he came sometime in '46; he came to Stockholm with six big boxes labelled US Navy in which he had all his equipment. He... Theorell made... crystallised the enzymes, and Britt would, with Theorell, study the kinetics of the reaction, and together they did wonderful work. Now Britton Chance was also a very enthusiastic sailor, and so was Theorell, even though his legs were not very good, and so they would sail together a lot; and Britt in fact had some of the best sailing boats in... in the world and participated in... in competitions. Eventually... let me see now, this must have been '48... in 1951, there was a second biochemistry congress in Paris and Britton Chance was supposed to come, and instead of coming he sent a telegram from Stockholm saying, 'I just won the gold medal in the Olympic Games.' So Britt had a gold medal in the Olympic Games for sailing, and everyone always expected him to get the second Nobel gold medal, and for... because he really deserved that, and for reasons that have a lot to do with the personalities, I think, he... he never got it. He's still alive – he's 92, I think, or 93, and I got a letter from him the other day, and he's just coming to London to participate in a... a meeting organised by the Royal Society. He still goes to the lab every day, every night. I mean, I've never seen a man like that: he's always in his lab, always working with his equipment; he has grants; he has students; he has post docs.

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: 1980s, 1946, 1951, Hugo Theorell, Sune Bergström, Bengt Samuelsson, Britton Chance, Francis John Worsley Roughton

Duration: 4 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008