Christian B. Anfinsen

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Christian B. Anfinsen

Christian B. Anfinsen, NIH portrait, 1969.jpg

Christian B. Anfinsen in 1969
BornChristian Boehmer Anfinsen Jr.
March 26, 1916
Monessen, Pennsylvania
Died May 14, 1995(1995-05-14) (aged 79)
Randallstown, Maryland
Nationality American
Alma mater Swarthmore College (BA, 1937)
University of Pennsylvania (MS, 1939)
Harvard Medical School (PhD, 1943)
Known for Ribonuclease, Anfinsen's dogma
Spouse(s) Florence Kenenger (1941-1978; divorced; 3 children)
Libby Shulman Ely (m. 1979; 4 stepchildren)
Awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1972)
Scientific career
Fields Biochemistry

Christian Boehmer Anfinsen Jr. (March 26, 1916 – May 14, 1995) [1] was an American biochemist. He shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Stanford Moore and William Howard Stein for work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation (see Anfinsen's dogma). [2]

Biochemist Scientist specialized in biochemistry

Biochemists are scientists that are trained in biochemistry.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation, and awarded by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on proposal of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry which consists of five members elected by Academy. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

Stanford Moore U.S. biochemist

Stanford Moore was an American biochemist. He shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1972 (with Christian B. Anfinsen and William Howard Stein, for work done at Rockefeller University on the structure of the enzyme ribonuclease and for contributing to the understanding of the connection between the chemical structure and catalytic activity of the ribonuclease molecule.



Anfinsen was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, into a family of Norwegian American immigrants. His parents were Sophie (née Rasmussen) and Christian Boehmer Anfinsen Sr., a mechanical engineer. [3] The family moved to Philadelphia in the 1920s. He earned a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College in 1937. While attending Swarthmore College he played varsity football and joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

Monessen, Pennsylvania City in Pennsylvania, United States

Monessen is a city in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 7,720 at the 2010 census. In 1940, 20,257 people lived there. In 1990 the population was 13,026. Monessen is the most southwestern municipality of Westmoreland County. Steel-making was a prominent industry in Monessen, which was a Rust Belt borough in the "Mon Valley" of southwestern Pennsylvania that became a third-class city in 1921. Monessen is part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, as well as the Laurel Highlands.

Bachelors degree Undergraduate academic degree

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

Swarthmore College liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1864, Swarthmore was one of the earliest coeducational colleges in the United States. It was established to be a college "...under the care of Friends, at which an education may be obtained equal to that of the best institutions of learning in our country." By 1906, Swarthmore had dropped its religious affiliation and became officially non-sectarian.

In 1939, he earned a master's degree in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1939, The American-Scandinavian Foundation awarded Anfinsen a fellowship to develop new methods for analyzing the chemical structure of complex proteins, namely enzymes, at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1941, Anfinsen was offered a university fellowship for doctoral study in the Department of Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School. There, Anfinsen received his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1943. [4] In 1979, he converted to Judaism, by undergoing an Orthodox conversion and that same year he quit smoking. Although Anfinsen wrote in 1985 that his feelings on religion still reflect a fifty-year period of orthodox agnosticism. [5]

A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

University of Pennsylvania Private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university located in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chartered in 1755, Penn is the sixth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. It is one of the nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum. The university's coat of arms features a dolphin on its red chief, adopted from Benjamin Franklin's own coat of arms.

The American-Scandinavian Foundation non-profit organisation in the USA

The American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF), is an American non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting international understanding through educational and cultural exchange between the United States and Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The Foundation's headquarters, Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America, is located at 58 Park Avenue, New York City.

Anfinsen had three children with his first wife, Florence Kenenger, to whom he was married from 1941 to 1978. He married Libby Shulman Ely, with whom he had 4 stepchildren, in 1979. [6]

His papers were donated to the National Library of Medicine by Libby Anfinsen between 1998 and 1999. [7]


Anfinsen in the lab Christian B. AnfinsenNIH.jpg
Anfinsen in the lab

In 1950, the National Heart Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, recruited Anfinsen as chief of its Laboratory of Cell physiology. In 1954, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship enabled Anfinsen to return to the Carlsberg Laboratory for a year and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship allowed him to study at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel from 1958–59. [8] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958. [9]

National Institutes of Health Medical research organization in the United States

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research. It was founded in the late 1870s and is now part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of NIH facilities are located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH conducts its own scientific research through its Intramural Research Program (IRP) and provides major biomedical research funding to non-NIH research facilities through its Extramural Research Program.

Bethesda, Maryland Census-designated place in Maryland, United States

Bethesda is an unincorporated, census-designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, located just northwest of the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. It takes its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting House, which in turn took its name from Jerusalem's Pool of Bethesda. In Aramaic, beth ḥesda means "House of Mercy" and in Hebrew, beit ḥesed means "House of Kindness". The National Institutes of Health main campus and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are in Bethesda, as are a number of corporate and government headquarters.

Cell physiology

Cell physiology is the biological study about the activities that take place in a cell to keep it alive. This includes, among animal cells, plant cells and microorganisms. The term "physiology" refers to all the normal functions that take place in a living organism. All of these activities in the cell could be counted as following ; nutrition, environmental response, cell growth, cell division, reproduction and differentiation. The differences among the animal cell, plant cell and microorganisms shows the essential functional similarity even though those cells have different structures. Absorption of water by roots, production of food in the leaves, and growth of shoots towards light are examples of plant physiology. The heterotrophic metabolism of food derived from plants and animals and the use of movement to obtain nutrients are characteristic of animal physiology.

In 1962, Anfinsen returned to Harvard Medical School as a visiting professor and was invited to become chair of the Department of Chemistry. He was subsequently appointed Chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Biology at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases (now the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), where he remained until 1981. In 1981, Anfinsen became a founding member of the World Cultural Council. [10] From 1982 until his death in 1995, Anfinsen was Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at Johns Hopkins. [11]

Ribonuclease A 3D structure, with SS bonds in gold RibonucleaseA SS line.png
Ribonuclease A 3D structure, with SS bonds in gold

Anfinsen published more than 200 original articles, mostly in the area of the relationships between structure and function in proteins. He was also a pioneer of ideas in the area of nucleic acid compaction. In 1961, he showed that ribonuclease could be refolded after denaturation while preserving enzyme activity, thereby suggesting that all the information required by protein to adopt its final conformation is encoded in its amino-acid sequence. He belonged to the National Academy of Sciences (USA), the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the American Philosophical Society. [5] [12]

Christian B. Anfinsen Award

Established in 1996, The Christian B. Anfinsen Award is presented annually to distinguished scientists, the Awards recognize excellence and outstanding achievements in the multidisciplinary fields of protein science, and honor distinguished contributions in the areas of leadership, education, or service. It is sponsored by The Protein Society, and recognizes significant technical achievements in the field of protein science. [13]

Past recipients of the Christian B. Anfinsen Award include:

Selected works

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  1. "Anfinsen, Christian Boehmer". Who Was Who in America, 1993-1996, vol. 11. New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who. 1996. p. 7. ISBN   0837902258.
  2. ''The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1972'' (The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences). Retrieved on 2012-03-08.
  4. ''Biography of Christian B. Anfinsen'' (U.S. National Library of Medicine). Retrieved on 2012-03-08.
  5. 1 2 "The Christian B. Anfinsen Papers". National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  7. "Christian Anfinsen Papers 1939-1999 (bulk 1964-1999)". National Library of Medicine.
  8. ''Christian B. Anfinsen – 1957'' (Guggenheim Foundation) Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine .. Retrieved on 2012-03-08.
  9. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  10. "About Us". World Cultural Council . Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  11. ''Obituary:Christian Anfinsen''. (1995-05-24). Retrieved on 2012-03-08.
  12. ''Christian B. Anfinsen'' (Store norske leksikon). Retrieved on 2012-03-08.
  13. THE CHRISTIAN B. ANFINSEN AWARD Archived 2016-03-19 at the Wayback Machine .