Chain, Ernst Boris

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Chain, Ernst Boris,

1906–79, English biochemist, b. Berlin, Germany. In 1933 he left Germany and went to England, where he conducted research at Cambridge from 1933 to 1935 and at Oxford from 1935; he lectured (1936–48) in chemical pathology at Oxford. In 1951 he became director of the International Research Center for Chemical Microbiology, Istituto Superiore de Sanità, Rome. He was professor of biochemistry at the Univ. of London from 1961. For his work on penicillin, Chain shared with Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Howard Florey the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Chain, Ernst Boris


Born June 19, 1906, in Berlin. British biochemist. Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1949).

Chain received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1930. In 1933 he emigrated to Great Britain. He conducted research at the School of Biochemistry in Cambridge from 1933 to 1935 and at Oxford University from 1935 to 1948. From 1948 to 1961 he was scientific director of the International Research Center for Chemical Microbiology in Rome; beginning in 1950, he was also a professor at the center. In 1961 he became a professor of biochemistry at the University of London.

Chain’s major works deal with antibiotics, the mechanism of the action of insulin, the technology of microbiological products, the formation of lysergic acid, and fungal metabolites. In 1939 he headed research on the isolation and purification of penicillin, which finally yielded a salt of penicillin in crystalline form. He established the chemical structure of penicillin.

Chain is a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1976). He received a Nobel Prize in 1945, with A. Fleming and H. Florey.


Landmarks and Perspectives in Biochemical Research. London, 1964.
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