James Batcheller Sumner was born on this date in 1887. He was an American chemist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946 with John Howard Northrop and Wendell Meredith Stanley. It was at Cornell where Sumner began his research into isolating enzymes in pure form; a feat which had never been achieved before. The enzyme he worked with was urease. Sumner’s work was unsuccessful for many years and many of his colleagues were doubtful, believing that what he was trying to achieve was impossible, but in 1926 he demonstrated that urease could be isolated and crystallised. He was also able to show by chemical tests that his pure urease was a protein. This was the first experimental proof that an enzyme is a protein, a controversial question at the time. His successful research brought him to full professorship at Cornell in 1929. From 1924 on his laboratory was located on the second floor of the new dairy science building, Stocking Hall (today home to Food Science), at Cornell where he did his Nobel Prize–winning research. In 1937 he succeeded in isolating and crystallising a second enzyme, catalase. By this time, John Howard Northrop of the Rockefeller Institute had obtained other crystalline enzymes by similar methods, starting with pepsin in 1929. It had become clear that Sumner had devised a general crystallisation method for enzymes, and also that all enzymes are proteins.
Frederick Sanger, OM, CH, CBE, FRS, FAA died on this date in 2013. He was a British biochemist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry twice, one of only two people to have done so in the same category (the other is John Bardeen in Physics), the fourth person overall with two Nobel Prizes, and the third person overall with two Nobel Prizes in the sciences. In 1958, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry “for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin”. In 1980, Walter Gilbert and Sanger shared half of the chemistry prize “for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids”. The other half was awarded to Paul Berg “for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA”.