Join Our Mailing List

Sponsor Us!

Melvin Calvin

(1911 - 1997)


Print Friendly and PDF

Melvin Calvin was born on April 8, 1911, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Calvin first studied at the Michigan College of Mining and Technology where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 1931. He then attended the University of Minnesota and received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1935.

In 1937, Calvin moved to California, where he studied and taught at the University of California at Berkley, advancing to Professor of Chemistry in 1947. He was again promoted by the university in 1963 to Professor of Molecular Biology. It was at the University of California that he founded the Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics and assumed to the position of Director of Berkley Radiation Laboratory. It was in the latter, that Calvin completed much of his indepth research on chemical processes of photosynthesis.

It was his work in studying photosynthesis through the use of tracers that earned Calvin great fame. Calvin utilized carbon-14 isotopes as radioactive tracers to reveal the chemical processes of photosynthesis. The Calvin Cycle illustrates how plants turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar. In 1961, he was labeled “Mr. Photosynthesis” by Time magazine. Calvin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1961 for his discovery along with Adam Benson, of the Calvin cycle or the carbon movements through a plant.

He acted on many different committees and academies overseeing the continuous research in science. Some of these committies include the Science Advisory Committee under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Calvin was also elected to the National Academy of Science.

In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize, Melvin Calvin was awarded the National Medal of Science (1989) and the Davy Medal from the Royal Society of London.

After many years of dedicated teaching and research, Calvin retired in 1980. Melvin Calvin died on January 8, 1997, at the age of 86.


Sources: Wikipedia; Wigoder, Geoffrey , Ed. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Facts on File, 1992; "Melvin Calvin Biography"; University of California at Berkeley; “Melvin Calvin, Who Unraveled the Secrets of Photosynthesis.”

Back to Top