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Ernst B. Chain

Ernst B. ChainAKA Ernst Boris Chain

Born: 19-Jun-1906
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: 12-Aug-1979
Location of death: Castlebar, Ireland
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: Germany
Executive summary: Isolated penicillin

Working with pathologist Howard Florey, Ernst Chain investigated Alexander Fleming's 1928 accidental discovery of the penicillium notatum mold. Fleming had been unable to identify what it was about the mold that caused its antibacterial effects, but Chain and Florey ascertained penicillin's chemical structure. After months of effort they were able to isolate very small amounts of a powdery substance that occurred when the mold broth was freeze-dried. Purifying the drug, they developed its first medicinal dosages. All three scientists, Fleming, Florey, and Chain, shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1945.

His father died when Chain was in his early teens, and his mother opened their home to boarders to make ends meet. Young Chain was a piano prodigy before his interest turned to science, and with his knowledge of music he found work as a music critic, using the income to pay for college. He studied under Nobel laureate Frederick Hopkins. Chain fled Germany when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, but his mother was unable to escape, and was killed in a German concentration camp.

Father: Michael Chain (chemist, d. 1919)
Mother: Margarete Eisner Chain
Wife: Anne Beloff-Chain (biochemist)
Son: Benjamin Chain (immunologist)
Son: Daniel Chain (CEO of Mindset BioPharmaceuticals)
Daughter: Judith Chain

    High School: Luisen Gymnasium, Berlin, Germany
    University: BA Chemisty, Friedrich Wilhelm University (1930)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University College London (1933)
    Scholar: Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1933-35)
    Teacher: Pathology, Oxford University (1935-48)
    Administrator: Science, Superior Institute of Health, Rome, Italy (1948-61)
    Professor: Biochemistry, Imperial College London (1961-79)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1944 (with Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming)
    French Legion of Honor 1947
    Royal Society 1949
    Knight of the British Empire 1969
    New York Academy of Medicine
    German Ancestry Maternal
    Russian Ancestry Paternal


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