- ANFINSEN, CHRISTIAN BOEHMER
- ANFINSEN, CHRISTIAN BOEHMER (1916–1995), U.S. biochemist and Nobel laureate. Anfinsen was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, the son of Norwegian immigrants, and converted to Judaism in 1980. After moving to Philadelphia, he received his B.Sc. in chemistry at Swarthmore College (1937) and his M.Sc. in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania (1939). A research fellowship in Copenhagen was cut short by the onset of World War II. He received his Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Harvard (1943), where he worked until 1950. He worked at the National Institutes of Health (1950–80) where he became head of the Laboratory of Chemical Biology (1963). Anfinsen's research mainly concerned the relationship between protein structure and function but he had broad scientific interests, notably the molecular basis of evolution and protein purification. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1972 (jointly with Stanford Moore and william stein ) for proving that the three-dimensional, folded structures of protein chains depend partly on the amino acid sequences which make up protein chains and partly on the physiological milieu (the "thermodynamic hypothesis"). Later he applied the technique of affinity chromatography to protein isolation and purification, which enabled the production of large quantities of interferon and opened the way to advances in anti-viral and anti-cancer therapy. He also worked on the structure of enzymes related to the infectious properties of the bacterium staphylococcus. In 1982 he became professor of biology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he worked on extraordinary bacteria that thrive at high temperature on ocean floors, a property which may have practical applications. Anfinsen's many honors included election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1963) and awards from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1985) and Bar-Ilan University (1990). He had a long association with the Weizmann Institute, where he was an honorary fellow (1962), a member of the Board of Governors (from 1962), and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council (1974). Anfinsen's many activities arising from his broad social concerns included his protest with other Nobel laureates against U.S. budget cuts for biomedical research (1976), protests on behalf of political prisoners (in 1981, necessitating travel to Argentina), and criticism of the potential misuses of biotechnology. (Michael Denman (2nd ed.)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.