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Christian Anfinsen

(1916 - 1995)

Christian Boehmer Anfinsen, Jr. was an American biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  He converted to Judaism later in life.

Anfinsen (born March 26, 1916; died May 14, 1995) was born in Monesson, Pennsylvania to a pair of Norwegian immigrants who taught their son about their Norwegian culture and history when he was growing up. Anfinsen's family later moved to Philadelphia and he attended Swarthmore College where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1937. He would then go to on attend the University of Pennsylvania and received a Masters of Science degree in Organic Chemistry. He entered Harvard University and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry there in 1943.

In 1972, Anfinsen achieved the peak honor for his field when he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Stanford Moore and William Howard Stein for their work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation.

Anfinsen received many other awards and worked in many prestigious laboratories during the course of his career. He worked as Chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Biology at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases for more than twenty years. He received fellowships to work in such places as the Carlsberg Laboratory and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, where he also served as a member on the Board of Governors.

Two years before graduating from Harvard, he married Florence Bernice Kenenger. The couple would have three children but unforunately divorced in 1978. A year later, he met and married Libby Esther Schulman Ely and converted to Orthodox Judaisim. He would describe Judaism as an extremely interesting philosophical package.

Anfinsen passed away from a heart attack in 1995 in Randallstown, Maryland. One year after his death, the Protein Society established the Christian B. Anfinsen Award in honor of the late Nobel laureate to recognize individuals who made significant technical achievements in the field of protein science.

Sources: NobelPrize.Org; Florida Atlantic University; The Independent: Obituary; The Protein Society; Wikipedia