The Father of British Biochemistry

The opening of the Sir William Dunn Institute of Biochemistry in Cambridge by the Earl of Balfour, Chancellor of the University, on 9th May 1924 was a grand occasion. There were speeches, demonstrations and activities for the 400 guests. Twenty five years after arriving in Cambridge with his belief that significant new scientific insights could be gained from applying a chemical approach to biological phenomena, Hopkins had a purpose built, fully funded department. He also had a highly talented young team to staff it whose research investigated many aspects of the ‘chemistry of life’.

J.B.S. Haldane developed important models of the kinetics of enzyme reactions while others did pivotal work on the stereochemistry of enzyme reactions. Marjory Stephenson inaugurated chemical bacteriology. The research interests of Joseph Needham ranged from chemical embryology to Chinese science while his wife, Dorothy became an international expert on muscle metabolism. Muriel Wheldale did landmark research in the emerging field of biochemical genetics. Later in the 1920s, issues of biological oxidation and tissue respiration were addressed by Malcolm Dixon, Ernest Baldwin, Robin Hill and others.

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