George Wald

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Wald, George

Wald, George, 1906–97, American biochemist, b. New York City, Ph.D. Columbia, 1932. He spent most of his career on the faculty at Harvard. In 1967 Wald, Haldan K. Hartline, and Ragnar Granit received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye. Wald was the first scientist to detect vitamin A in the retina, and he went on to identify three different types of retinal cone cells, each of which has unique protein pigments and enables the eye to react to a specific portion of the color spectrum.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wald, George


Born Nov. 18, 1906, in New York City. American biologist and biochemist. Member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wald graduated from Washington Square College of New York University in 1927. He was a National Research Council fellow from 1932 to 1934. Since 1934, Wald has taught biology at Harvard University; he was an assistant professor from 1944 to 1948 and a full professor from 1948 to 1968.

Wald’s main works deal with biochemistry and physiology and with problems concerning the origin of life and biological evolution. His particular concern has been the development of vision and problems relating to color vision in humans. Wald discovered vitamins A (retinol) and A2 (dehydroretinol) in the retinal receptors (cones and rods), and he explained their role in the formation of rhodopsin as well as the conversion process of rhodopsin. Wald was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1967, jointly with R. Granit and H. Hartline.


The Molecular Basis of Visual Excitation. Stockholm, 1968. (Nobel lecture.)
“Filogeniia i ontogeniia na molekuliarnom urovne.” In Evoliutsionnaia biokhimiia, III, pages 19–58. Moscow, 1962. (Trudy V Mezhdunarodnogo Biokhimicheskogo kongressa.)


Fiziologiia sensornykh sistem, part 1: Fiziologiia zreniia. Leningrad, 1971. (Handbook of physiology.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wald, George

(1906–  ) biochemist; born in New York City. He was a research fellow at the University of Chicago and in Europe (1932–34), then joined Harvard (1934–77). While in Berlin (1933), he discovered vitamin A in the retina; in subsequent research he determined how the retinal rod cells enable black-and-white night vision. During the late 1950s, his investigations of the three types of retinal cone cells demonstrated that these cells' color reception is due to the presence of three different protein pigments. For this work, he shared the 1967 Nobel Prize in physiology. He was a dedicated and popular lecturer who believed that the natural world is "of chance, but not accident," and described a scientist's ongoing intellectual development as that of a "learned child." He was active against the Vietnam war, the arms race, and the development of nuclear power plants.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.