Albert Szent-Györgyi and the paprika

Al­ber­t Szent-György­i (16 Sept. 1893, Bud­apest – 22 Oct. 1986, Wood­s Hall, Mas­sachu­sett­s): bio­chemist, mem­ber of the Hun­gari­an S­ci­en­ti­fic Academy (reg­u­lar mem­ber­: 1935, hon­our­able mem­ber­: 1945), win­ner of the No­bel Prize (1937). Des­cend­ant of the fam­ous s­ci­ent­ist dyn­asty, the Len­hoss fam­ily. Uni­versity stud­ies: 1911-17, Uni­versity of Bud­apest.

Szent-­Györ­gyi Al­bert ál­ló, e­gé­sza­la­kos ké­pe. A la­bo­ra­tó­ri­u­mi pap­ri­kaőrlő mel­lett áll, vizs­gá­ló­dik.
­Full por­trait of Al­ber­t Szent-György­i. He is stand­ing n­ear the paprika-­grind in the labor­at­or­y, ex­amin­ing it.
C-­vi­ta­min fi­o­lá­ban - fű­szer­pap­ri­ká­ból el­őál­lí­tot­ta Szent-­Györ­gyi Al­bert.
Vit­am­in C in vi­al – ex­trac­ted of cap­sic­um by Al­ber­t Szent-György­i.


As a stu­dent of medi­cine he was in­ter­ested in mor­pho­logy, later on he did biopsies in the in­sti­tute run by his un­cle, Mi­hály Len­hoss. He par­ti­cip­ated in the First World War as a med­ic­al stu­dent, but soon got wounded an­d was de­mo­bil­ised. Af­ter gradu­at­ing in medi­cine he both im­proved his know­ledge an­d kep­t courses in Brat­is­lava, Prague, Ber­lin, Leiden, C­groin­eng, an­d Cam­bridge (here he ac­quired a PhD in Chem­istry in 1927). 1931-1945: he was the pro­fess­or of the Fer­encz Józ­se­f Uni­versity of Szeged, Med­ic­al Chem­istry In­sti­tute. 1945-1947: he was a pro­fess­or of Bio­chem­istry at the Bud­apest Med­ic­al Uni­versity. 1946-1948: he was the vice-­pres­id­ent of the Hun­gari­an S­ci­en­ti­fic Academy. In 1947 he im­mig­rated to the USA. 1947-1962: he was the dir­ect­or of the USA S­ci­en­ti­fic In­sti­tute for the Re­search of the Mus­cu­lar Sys­tem, Mar­ine Bio­logy Labor­at­or­y. 1962-1971: he be­came uni­versity pro­fess­or of the Dart-­Moun­th Uni­versity, be­ing also mem­ber of sev­er­al s­ci­en­ti­fic com­mit­tees. At the be­gin­ning of his ca­reer he was in­ter­ested in bio­lo­gic­al ox­id­a­tion, he proved that meta­bol­ism is a res­ult of the ac­tiv­a­tion of hy­dro­gen an­d oxy­gen.

He dis­covered the cata­lys­is of di­car­bon a­cid C4, a basis for the Kreb­s cir­cu­la­tion pro­cess. His re­searches con­cern­ing the per­ox­ide-sys­tem led to the dis­cov­ery of the re­du­cing a­gent ne­ces­sar­y for ox­id­a­tion – the ascor­bic a­cid. He es­tab­lished the com­pound­s of hex­ur­on a­cid, iden­ti­fied it with the ascor­bic a­cid – an­d this is vit­am­in C. This dis­cov­ery brought him the No­bel Prize in 1937. He star­ted to deal with the bio­phys­ic­al an­d bio­chem­ic­al mech­an­is­m of mus­cu­lar con­trac­tion already dur­ing the years in Szeged. Af­ter do­ing some sub­molecu­lar re­search his in­terest turned to­ward­s m­a­lig­nant tu­mours. He was try­ing to solve the prob­lem of cel­lu­lar reg­u­la­tion for t­wo dec­ades. Dur­ing the Second World War he was op­pos­ing the polit­ic­s of the Nazi Ger­many.

He had an im­port­ant role in the dip­lo­mat­ic ac­tion­s of the Kál­lay gov­ern­ment that tried to es­cape war. Al­though he lived in the USA since 1947, he al­ways kep­t in touch with his n­at­ive coun­try, an­d de­clared to be a Hun­gari­an. He reg­u­larly vis­ited Hun­gary af­ter­1960. The Med­ic­al Uni­versity of Szeged, af­ter of­fer­ing him the title of “­Doc­tor Hon­oris Causa”, ad­op­ted his name in 1987.