Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz died on this date in 1916. Also known by the pseudonym Litwos, he was a Polish journalist, novelist, and philanthropist. He is best remembered for his historical novels. Born into an impoverished Polish noble family in Russian-ruled Congress Poland, in the late sixties, he began publishing journalistic and literary pieces. In the late seventies, he travelled to the United States, sending back travel essays that won him popularity with Polish readers. In the eighties, he began serialising novels that further increased his popularity. He soon became one of the most popular Polish writers of the turn of the twentieth centuries, and numerous translations gained him international renown, culminating in his receipt of the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature for his “outstanding merits as an epic writer.” Many of his novels remain in print. In Poland, he is best known for his Trilogy of historical novels — With Fire and Sword, The Deluge, and Sir Michael — set in the seventeenth-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; internationally he is best known for Quo Vadis, set in Nero’s Rome. The Trilogy and Quo Vadis have been filmed, the latter several times, with Hollywood’s 1951 version receiving the most international recognition.
Paul Sabatier FRS was born on this date in 1854. He was a French chemist, born in Carcassonne. In 1912, Sabatier was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Victor Grignard. Sabatier was honoured specifically for his work improving the hydrogenation of organic species in the presence of metals.
Alexis Carrel died on this date in 1944. He was a French surgeon and biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912 for pioneering vascular suturing techniques. He invented the first perfusion pump with Charles A. Lindbergh opening the way to organ transplantation. Like many intellectuals before World War II, he promoted eugenics. He was a regent for the French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems during Vichy France which implemented the eugenics policies there; his association with the Foundation led to investigations of collaborating with the Nazis but no conclusions were reached by the investigations. He faced constant media attacks towards the end of his life over to his alleged involvement with the Nazis. Alexis Carrel was also elected twice, in 1924 and 1927, as an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Christiaan Eijkman died on this date in 1930. He was a Dutch physician and professor of physiology whose demonstration that beriberi is caused by poor diet led to the discovery of vitamins. Together with Sir Frederick Hopkins, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Edward Lawrie Tatum died on this date in 1975. He was an American geneticist. He shared half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958 with George Wells Beadle for showing that genes control individual steps in metabolism. The other half of that year’s award went to Joshua Lederberg. Beadle and Tatum’s key experiments involved exposing the bread mould “Neurospora crassa” to x-rays, causing mutations. In a series of experiments, they showed that these mutations caused changes in specific enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. These experiments, published in 1941, led them to propose a direct link between genes and enzymatic reactions, known as the “one gene, one enzyme” hypothesis. Tatum went on to study genetics in bacteria. An active area of research in his laboratory was to understand the basis of Tryptophan biosynthesis in Escherichia coli. Later, Tatum and his student Joshua Lederberg showed that E. coli could share genetic information through recombination. Tatum was born in Boulder, Colorado. He attended college at the University of Chicago and received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1934. Starting in 1937, he worked at Stanford University, where he began his collaboration with Beadle. He then moved to Yale University in 1945 where he mentored Lederberg. He returned to Stanford in 1948 and then joined the faculty of Rockefeller Institute in 1957. A heavy cigarette smoker, he died in New York City of heart failure complicated by chronic emphysema.