Wandering in the Gardens of the Mind: Peter Mitchell and the Making of Glynn

Wandering in the Gardens of the Mind: Peter Mitchell and the Making of Glynn

Wandering in the Gardens of the Mind: Peter Mitchell and the Making of Glynn

Wandering in the Gardens of the Mind: Peter Mitchell and the Making of Glynn

Synopsis

Peter Mitchell, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his chemiosmotic theory, was a highly original scientist who revolutionized our understanding of cellular metabolism and bioenergetics. This is the only full biography of Mitchell, and it should be of considerable interest to biophysicists, biochemists, and physicians and researchers focusing on metabolism, as well as historians of medicine and biology.

Excerpt

In many ways, biological science came of age in the twentieth century. Among the large number of scientists who brought about the new understanding of living things was Peter Mitchell (1920–1992). Mitchell is important in twentieth-century biology because he was the major figure responsible for bringing about a paradigm change in biochemical thinking about metabolic energy and discovering the link between metabolic energy and the transfer of substances across membranes. He himself undertook something of a crusade in the 1950s in trying to bring together thinking about physiological transport across membranes and thinking about the general metabolism of cells largely conceived as taking place in undifferentiated solution. While Mitchell regarded his ideas on the relation between transport and metabolism as his major contribution, the world remembers him for a derivative of these ideas—the chemiosmotic theory developed in the 1960s and 1970s. This theory explained a phenomenon, which had baffled biochemists since Engelhardt, Kalckar, Ochoa, and others first described the process of oxidative phosphorylation, whereby metabolic energy of oxidation is conserved as atp (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency of the cell.

There are other reasons for writing a biography of Mitchell. Apart from developing the chemiosmotic theory, which solved a long-standing problem, he engaged in other creative activities. Endowed with family money, he set out to prove that it was still possible to set up and run a small independent research institute, the Glynn Research Institute. This he did with his lifelong associate, Jennifer Moyle. the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Mitchell in 1978 not only provided recognition of his contribution to biochemistry but also, at least in his . . .

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