November 6 marks the passing of Swedish biochemist, Hans von Euler-Chelpin. He was awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Arthur Harden for their investigations into the process of fermentation and yeast enzymes.
Brewers use yeast to convert glucose (sugar) into carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. People have been using yeast for centuries for fermentation but the process was not fully understood. Eduard Buchner identified the yeast enzyme called zymase after he removed all cells from yeast and it still managed to produce fermentation. This discovery would earn him the 1907 Nobel Prize. Harden later showed zymase was made up of two different enzymes. Euler-Chelpin discovered the complementary enzyme, cozymase that was responsible for the production of carbon dioxide in the process. He also explained the fermentation reactions mechanics using physical chemistry to show how energy is transferred. This would lead to understanding how muscle cells ferment when starved of oxygen and produce lactic acid.
Notable Science History Events for November 6
1964 – Hans von Euler-Chelpin died.
1932 – François Englert was born.
Englert is a Belgian physicist who shares the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics with Peter Higgs for their discovery of the Higgs mechanism.
The Higgs mechanism is a gauge theory in the Standard Model which explains why particles have mass. The theory holds all elementary particles are excited states of a field associated with the particle. These fields can couple together and interact. When the Higgs field interacts with the fields associated with elementary particles, the particles acquire mass.
1822 – Claude Louis Berthollet died.
Berthollet was a French chemist who introduced the use of chlorine-based bleach as a dye. He also argued against the law of definite proportions where chemicals combine in whole number ratios. Non-stoichiometric compounds are called berthollides in his honor.
Berthollet passed gaseous chlorine through a solution of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) to form a solution of sodium hypochlorite (NaClO). Sodium hypochlorite is what we know as ‘bleach’ today. He also discovered potassium chlorate (KClO3) or ‘Berthollet’s Salt’ and was the first to determine the composition of ammonia (NH3).
1638 – James Gregory was born.
Gregory was a Scottish astronomer and mathematician who invented the reflecting telescope. He described the Gregorian reflector telescope but never successfully built one. Robert Hooke constructed the first successful working model in 1673. He also was the first to describe a method to determine the distance to Venus by timing the transit of the planet across the face of the Sun.