Sunday, July 31, 2011

USA Honors Two Biochemists and an Evolutionary Biologist

The United States has just honored two biochemists, an evolutionary biologist, and some other scientist by issuing stamps to commemorate their achievements [American Scientists (Forever)].

Melvin Calvin (1911-1997) is famous for working out an important pathway of carbon fixation known today as the Calvin cycle. This pathway is prominent in photosynthetic bacteria and in chloroplasts. It is often considered to be a fundamental part of photosynthesis, although some workers prefer to maintain the distinction. Calvin won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1961.

Severo Ochoa (1905-1993) received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959 along with Arthur Kornberg. Ochoa demonstrated that RNA could be synthesized in vitro using purified RNA polymerase. Later on he helped create synthetic polynucleotides that helped crack the genetic code.

Asa Gray (1810-1888) is best known today as a friend of Charles Darwin and one of the early supporters of evolution in America. He was a botanist at Harvard for most of his career. The website says he "... became the principal American advocate of evolutionary theory in the mid-nineteenth century." I think it would be much more fair to say that Asa Gray was a strong supporter of evolution. He and Darwin had many discussions (by letter) on the mechanisms of evolution.


  1. Prof. Moran should be ashamed of himself, sloughing off the late Prof. Mayer as "some other scientist". She is one of the very few women to have been awarded a Nobel Prize. A bit of male chauvinism here?

  2. Oh Oh. I was wondering if I should have put a smiley after "some other scientist" but I decided that most intelligent people would recognize this as humor. Especially since I appropriated Calvin as a biochemist when he's listed as "chemist" on the stamp.

    It never occurred to me that one of my regular readers would be stupid enough to accuse me of sexism. Just goes to show you what kind of ridiculous politically correct climate we live in today.

  3. I saw it as like The Maestro on Seinfeld referring to "his favorite tenor... and those other guys".

  4. Re Larry Moran

    And Prof. Moran does the same thing that he accused me of, namely not recognizing that the reference to male chauvinism was a snark.