Heritage: Melvin Calvin – The Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1961
Chemistry in the real world Research and impact 25th May 2021
Following on from our post about John Charles Polyani, today we are bringing you some information about the Nobel Prize winner, Melvin Calvin.
Who is Melvin Calvin?
Calvin was born on the 8th April 1911, in Minnesota and was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. He grew up and studied in Detroit, earning his BSc in Chemistry from the Michigan Technology University in 1931. Calvin then went on to achieve his PhD at the University of Minnesota in 1935, for research on the electron affinity of halogens.
Calvin did postdoctoral work here at The University of Manchester with Michael Polyani. This is where his interest in photochemistry began, and became the subject of his life’s work. He later went to the University of California, where he spent the rest of his outstanding career and became a Professor of Chemistry.
What did Calvin win the Nobel Prize for?
In the 1950s, Calvin, Benson and Bassham used the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer to map the route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis. The Calvin cycle shows the stages of chemical reactions that take place in chloroplasts during photosynthesis.
The explanation and clarification of the mechanisms of photosynthesis led to Calvin being the sole recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Beyond the Nobel Prize: Science in Society
Calvin was one of the first members of the Society for General Systems Research and in 1963 was given the additional title of Professor of Molecular Biology.
He was the founder and Director of the Laboratory of Chemical Biodynamics and the Associate Director of Berkeley Radiation Laboratory. Most of his research was conducted here until he retired in 1980.
In his final years, he focused his research on the use of oil-producing plants as renewable sources of energy.
Do you want to find out more?
Words – Olivia Tansey
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