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Fellows Directory

William Whelan

William Whelan

Professor William Whelan FRS


Elected: 1992


William Whelan was well known for his pioneering work on the fine structure of starch and glycogen, and on mechanisms of enzymatic synthesis and degradation of starch and glycogen. His early discovery of the D enzyme in plants and its reactions, and his related work with pullulanase to establish the structure of the terminal chains of phi-dextrin and the role of glucosyltransferase reactions in the degradation of glycogen in vivo, were of crucial importance.

William also made important contributions to glycogen biosynthesis, and especially to the mechanism of de novo synthesis of glycogen. He demonstrated that glycogen contains a covalently bound protein (glycogenin) and presented evidence that glycogenin is attached to glycogen through a unique glycosidic linkage involving a tyrosine hydroxyl. His contributions to the promotion of effective communication between biochemists through the founding of new organisations (FEBS and PABS), the introduction of novel publications (for example, Trends in Biochemical Sciences) and his work as the general secretary of IUB had been second to none.

Professor William Whelan FRS died on 5 June 2021.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
    • Biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Other
    • History of science
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