Nobel Prize Winners in Photosynthesis Research


(For more info on all the nobel laureates, click here).


  • Paul D. Boyer and John E. Walker (1997, Chemistry): Elucidation of enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
  • Rudolph Marcus (1992, Chemistry): Electron transfer theory: included application to photosynthesis. [He was at UIUC, Urbana; had attended my course in "Bioenergetics in Photosynthesis"; is currently at Cal Tech in Pasadena, CA.]
  • Hartmut Michel; Robert Huber; and Johannes Deisenhofer (1988, Chemistry): X-ray structure of bacterial reaction center. [Michel has visited Urbana several times and I have had many conversations with him before and after his prize; I have casually met Deisenhofer, but never Huber. The work was done at Munich, Germany.]
  • Peter Mitchell (1978, Chemistry check): Oxidative and photosynthetic phosphorylation: chemi-osmotic theory.[The work was done in England, UK]
  • Robert Burns Woodward (1965, Chemistry): Total synthesis of chlorophyll, vitamin B12, and other natural products.[He was at Harvard University]
  • Melvin Calvin (1961, Chemistry): Carbon-di oxide assimilation in photosynthesis.[The work was done at Berkeley; Professor Calvin is known to me as he has visited UIUC, and, he is one of the two professors I had applied to do PhD with; the person who discovered 14C (Martin Kamen),that was crucial for Calvin's experiments, is known to me personally.]
  • Richard Kuhn (1938, Chemistry): carotenoids; vitamins [Germany]
  • Paul Karrer (1937, Chemistry): Carotenoid structure; flavins; vitamin B2[Germany]
  • Hans Fischer (1930, Chemistry): Chlorophyll chemistry; hemin synthesis[Germany]
  • Richard Martin Wilstatter (1915, Chemistry): Chlorophyll purification and structure, carotenoids, etc.[Germany]


Those who worked in Photosynthesis, but only after their Prize in another field


  • James Franck (with Hertz) (1925, Physics): Electron-atom collisions; later developed the principle known as the Franck-Condon principle; he later worked in photosynthesis; my PhD advisor Eugene Rabinowitch did his post-doctorate research with Franck on an effect known as the "cage effect" in photochemistry. Franck was brilliant, but most of his ideas on photosynthesis turned out to be wrong; he headed the Chemistry division of the Manhattan project on the "Atom bomb" at Chicago; later, he worked hard to get the US from not dropping the bomb in Japan.[ Work done in Germany] I met Professor Franck only once in 1963.
  • Otto Warburg (1931, Physiology and Medicine): The respiratory Enzyme. He worked on the quantum yield of photosynthesis; discovered the role of chloride and bicarbonate in the :"light reactions" of photosynthesis, among many phenomena in the "dark reactions" of photosynthesis. His PhD student Robert Emerson was my first PhD advisor from Sept. 1956- Feb. 1959. Warburg was proven wrong in the quantum yield controversy with Emerson. He visited UIUC before I went there.[ Work done in Germany] My current major reseach deals with the "bicarbonate effect", discovered by Warburg.
  • Sir (now Lord) George Porter, O.M.(with Norrish and Eigen) (1967, Chemistry): Flash photolysis, among other systems, he studied aromatic molecules and chlorophyll, energy transfer in photosynthesis and primary photochemistry of photosynthesis in femtosecond-picosecond time scale. [ Work done in England, UK] One of my major research areas deals with femtosecond-picosecond spectroscopy in photosystem II reaction centers. I have met Professor Porter several times and had pleasant conversations; he has visited India.]