"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi in Irving Good, The Scientist Speculates (1962)
Nobel-Prize winner Albert von Szent-Györgyi was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1893. After matriculating in 1911 he worked in his uncle's laboratory until World War I during which he served on the Italian and Russian fronts gaining the Silver Medal for Valor. He was wounded in 1917 and discharged. He completed his studies in Budapest and then worked and/or studied widely in locations including Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Leiden, Groningen and Cambridge, Mass (as a Rockerfeller Fellow).
He was the first to isolate vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and his research on biological oxidation provided the basis for Krebs' citric acid cycle (a series of enzyme-catalysed chemical reactions of central importance in all living cells that use oxygen as part of cellular respiration.
In 1937, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "For his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion process with special reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid".
In his book, The Crazy Ape (1970), he writes, "When I received the Nobel Prize, the only big lump sum of money I have ever seen, I had to do something with it. The easiest way to drop this hot potato was to invest it, to buy shares. I knew that World War II was coming and I was afraid that if I had shares which rise in case of war, I would wish for war. So I asked my agent to buy shares which go down in the event of war. This he did. I lost my money and saved my soul."
In 1938, he began work on the biophysics of muscle movement; his discoveries about the biochemical nature of muscular contraction revolutionized the field of muscle research.
During World War II he was part of the Hungarian Resistance, and after the war became a Swedish citizen, settling in the USA a few years later, becoming Director of Research at the Institute of Muscle Research in Woods Hole, Mass. His later career was devoted to research in "submolecular" biology, applying quantum physics to biological processes. He was especially interested in cancer, and was one of the first to explore the connections between free radicals and cancer.
He died in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1986
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