Ernst Boris Chain
(1906 - 1979)
Ernst Boris Chain was born on June 19, 1906, in Berlin, Germany. In 1930, he obtained
his chemistry degree from Friedrich Wilhelm University. Following graduation,
Chain spent three years working on enzyme research at the Charité
Hospital. After the Nazis came to power, Chain left Germany for England in 1933, because he was a Jew.
He began working on phospholipids (a major component
of all major biological membranes) at Cambridge University under the
direction of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins. In 1935, he accepted a job
at Oxford University as a lecturer in pathology. During this time he
worked on a range of research topics, including snake venoms, tumor
metabolism, lysozymes, and biochemistry techniques.
In 1939, he partnered with Howard Florey to investigate
natural antibacterial agents produced by microorganisms. This led him
and Florey to revisit the work of Alexander Fleming, who had described
penicillin nine years previously. Chain and Florey went on to discover
penicillin's theraputic action and its chemical composition. It was
Chain who worked out how to isolate and concentrate penicillin. He also
theorized the structure of penicillin, which was confirmed by x-ray
crystallography done by Dorothy Hodgkin.
War II, Chain moved to Rome,
to work at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita (Superior Institute of Health).
There he was appointed Scientific Director of the International Research
Centre for Chemical Microbiology. He returned to Britain in 1961 as
Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College, University of London.
In 1945, Chain received the Nobel
Prize for Medicine, along with Florey and Fleming, for their work
on penicillin. In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize, he was awarded
the Silver Berzelius Medal of the Swedish Medical Society (1946) and
the Paul Ehrlich Centenary Prize (1954). In 1949, he was elected Foreign
Member of the Royal Society in London. Chain was also member of the
Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, Israel.
Chain died on August 12, 1979.
Prize Biography; Wikipedia