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John H. Northrop

John H. NorthropAKA John Howard Northrop

Born: 5-Jul-1891
Birthplace: Yonkers, NY
Died: 27-May-1987
Location of death: Wickenberg, AZ
Cause of death: Suicide

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Bacteriophages

Military service: US Army (WWI, 1917-18, Captain, Chemical Warfare Service)

John H. Northrop shared the 1946 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Wendell M. Stanley and James B. Sumner, for his work establishing the chemical nature of enzymes and showing that bacteriophages (viruses that infect specific bacteria) contain nucleic acid. He isolated the crystalline protein pepsin in 1930, showed that bacteriophages are viruses in 1936, and isolated the first bacteriophage in 1938. He also isolated and crystalized chymotrypsin, deoxyribonuclease, ribonuclease, and trypsin, and ascertained the phase rule solubility method used in evaluating protein purity.

Friends and colleagues called him "Big Jack". His parents were both scientists, but his father was killed in a laboratory explosion and fire less than two weeks before Northrop's birth. He was rendered almost entirely deaf by military nerve gas experiments he conducted during World War II, and for this reason he rarely attended scientific meetings. His son-in-law, Frederick C. Robbins, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954. In failing health and ninety-five years of age, Northrop took his own life in 1987. His autobiography, which remains unpublished, is titled Just for the Fun of It.

Father: John Isaiah Northrop, Jr. (biologist at Columbia University, b. circa 1862, d. 27-Jun-1891)
Mother: Alice Belle Rich Northrop (botanist at Hunter College, b. 1864, d. 1922)
Wife: Louise Walker (m. 26-Jun-1917, d. 21-Apr-1975, one son, one daughter)
Son: John Northrop (oceanographer)
Daughter: Alice Havemeyer Northrop Robbins (married Nobel laureate Frederick C. Robbins)

    High School: Yonkers High School, Yonkers, NY (1909)
    University: BS, Columbia University (1912)
    University: MA, Columbia University (1913)
    University: PhD Chemistry, Columbia University (1915)
    Scholar: Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, NYC (1916-61)
    Professor: Bacteriology & Biophysics, University of California at Berkeley (1947-61)

    Stevens Prize 1931
    National Academy of Sciences 1934
    Chandler Medal 1936
    Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal 1939
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1946 (with Wendell M. Stanley and James B. Sumner)
    Alexander Hamilton Medal 1961
    British Chemical Society Foreign Member
    Journal of General Physiology Editorial Board, 1924-87
    English Ancestry Paternal
    Risk Factors: Deafness

Author of books:
Crystalline Enzymes (1939, chemistry textbook)

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