September 16 – Happy Birthday, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Posted on September 16, 2014

  • A member of a resistance movement!
  • An anti-war protestor!
  • Founder of a cancer research organization!
  • A Nobel Prize Laureate!
  • The guy who discovered Vitamin C!

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, born on this date in 1893 in Hungary, became a physiologist. He worked on trying to understand the chemistry of cellular respiration—the process by which cells “burn” food to create ATP, which is the chemical that cells use for energy.

Along the way, as Szent-Gyorgyi studied organic acids, he determined the structure of L-ascorbic acid, which we commonly call Vitamin C.

Before World War II, Szent-Gyorgyi helped his Jewish friends to escape the country, and during the war he joined the Hungarian resistance movement that agitated against the Nazis who had invaded their country.

When he won a Nobel Prize for his work on cellular recreation and Vitamin C, Szent-Gyorgyi offered all of his prize money to Finland, which had recently been invaded by the Soviet Union.

His science allowed Szent-Gyorgyi to leave post-war communist Hungary; he went to the U.S., and eventually became an American citizen. While living in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he started the Institute for Muscle Research, and later he started a non-profit organization called the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

In the late 1960s, Szent-Gyorgyi protested the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and he urged other people to take a stand against the war as well.

I like that Szent-Gyorgyi was involved in politics as well as science. He seems like the kind of principled man we need more of...

Celebrate Szent-Gyorgyi! learning more about cellular respiration. Try this video

Also on this date:

Mexico's Independence Day (El Grito)

Glyndwr Day in Wales

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