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Frederick Hopkins

Frederick HopkinsAKA Frederick Gowland Hopkins

Born: 20-Jun-1861
Birthplace: Eastbourne, England
Died: 16-May-1947
Location of death: Cambridge, England
Cause of death: unspecified

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

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Discovered vitamins

English biochemist Frederick Hopkins was raised by a widowed mother and a disinterested uncle, and was expelled from high school for truancy. He became an insurance salesman, and after attending night classes in chemistry, worked for several years as an assistant in a criminal forensics lab. It was not until he was 28 years of age that he could afford tuition to medical school.

Despite his late start in science, he won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of vitamins. He was among the first to envision the cell as a chemical machine. He discovered tryptophan, an important amino acid, then proved that tryptophan and other essential amino acids could not be manufactured by the body, but had to be supplied through proper diet. Intrigued by Christiaan Eijkman's somewhat similar findings on the importance of proper diet, Hopkins then oversaw a study that proved rats' growth is impeded when fed all the known ingredients of milk -- fats, proteins and carbohydrates -- instead of milk itself. His work established that unknown trace substances he called "accessory food factors" were present in milk, and his papers on the topic were the first to explain the concept of vitamins.

As he conducted some of his most important research, he augmented his rather meager academic income by returning to work part-time at the forensics lab, and working as a teacher. In 1914, he received a raise and became the first Professor of Biochemistry at Cambridge. In other studies, he isolated glutathione, then showed that it is a tripeptide of glutamic acid, glycine and cystein, and he discovered pterin, a chemical compound essential to the coloring of butterfly wings. Working with Sir Walter Fletcher, he proved that muscles accumulate lactic acid. He was knighted by King George V in 1925.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was his distant cousin. His daughter, author and archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes, was one of the first women to study archaeology at Cambridge. She found the Neanderthal Tabon Skull, took part in excavations in Britain, France and Palestine, wrote numerous books including Atlas of Ancient Archaeology, and encouraged a young David Attenborough to pursue his interest in fossils. She was also an activist against nuclear proliferation and in favor of equal rights for homosexuals and bisexuals. Her second husband was playwright J. B. Priestley.

Father: (bookseller)
Wife: Jessie Anne Stevens (nurse, m. 1898)
Daughter: Barbara Hopkins
Son: Frederick Hopkins Jr. ("Hopper")
Daughter: Jacquetta Hopkins Hawkes (archaeologist, b. 5-Aig-1910, d. 1996)

    High School: City of London School (expelled)
    University: Imperial College London
    University: University College London
    University: BS Chemistry, University of London (1888)
    Medical School: MD, King's College London (1894)
    Teacher: Physiology, Cambridge University (1898-1914)
    Scholar: Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1910-14)
    Professor: Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1914-43)

    Royal Society 1905 (President, 1930-35)
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1929 (with Christiaan Eijkman)
    Royal Medal 1918
    Knight of the British Empire 1925
    Copley Medal 1926
    Order of Merit 1935
    Expelled from School

Author of books:
Newer Aspects of the Nutrition Problem (1922, research)
The Problems of Specificity in Biochemical Catalysis (1931, research)
Chemistry and Life (1931)
An Introduction to Comparative Biochemistry (1949, textbook, co-author Ernest Baldwin)


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