Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondWithin this MOOC we review a wide number of biochemical discoveries and important biochemists. Our journey through this topic begins during the second half of the 19th century, when the term “biochemistry” (and its German/French equivalent “biochimie”) started to be used. This term became synonomous with “physiological chemistry” or the “chemistry of life”, particularly within medical schools that taught this topic to assist understanding of human disease. Within the UK the topic first gained recognition in 1902, when the first Chair of Biochemistry was appointed at the University of Liverpool. Biochemists have increased our understanding of cellular metabolism, as illustrated by experiments during the 1930s when Hans Krebs discovered the urea cycle and then the citric acid cycle.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 secondsThis led to him being awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1953. Powerful techniques have prompted important developments in biochemistry, as typified by the use of x-ray crystallography, which allows the structure of biomolecules to be determined at a high resolution. A forerunner in this aspect of biochemistry was Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, leading to her being awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1964, that included her studies on the important vitamin B12. In week 2 of this MOOC we will move on to highlight understanding of bioenergy and bioenergetics, with a particular focus on the nitrogen cycle. Work in this area builds on studies from the chemist, Fritz Haber, who was awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1918.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsIn our discussions about bioenergetics, one of the most important molecules is ATP, and this is often referred to as the energy currency of cells. In this area of biochemistry two important Nobel prizes in Chemistry have been

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsawarded: firstly, in 1978 to Peter Mitchell, and then, in 1997 to Paul Boyer and John Walker. Finally, in week 3 of the MOOC we will move on to look at the potential for biochemistry to be useful in the future and we will consider its links to recent developments in molecular biology, genetics and synthetic biology. These topics began to establish themselves in 1953 with major developments in our understanding of DNA - this molecule is central to all cellular life. In this year, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins and colleagues reported the double-stranded helical structure of this molecule.

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 secondsAfter Franklin’s death in 1957, their work was recognised by the awarding of the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 to Crick, Watson and Wilkins. The potential usefulness of these studies as being important for improving our understanding of human health and disease was illustrated in 2003 with the completion and publication of the human genome sequence.

Significant biochemists and experiments

This video highlights significant biochemists and experiments that led to important advances in biochemical knowledge. Further information about findings that have been important in biochemistry are available on the Biochemical Society website.

Findings highlighted in this video include:

Pre-1900: The term “biochemistry” (and its German/French equivalent “biochimie”) becomes synonomous with “physiological chemistry” or the “chemistry of life”. Medical schools start to teach that these studies are important for understanding human disease.

1902: First Chair (Professorship) of Biochemistry appointed at the University of Liverpool

1918: Fritz Haber awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1918 “for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements”.

1933, 1937 & 1953: Krebs discovers urea cycle and subsequently the citric acid cycle

1953: Crick, Franklin, Watson, Wilkins and colleagues report the double helical structure of DNA. After Franklin’s death in 1957, this work was recognised by the awarding of the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 to Crick, Watson and Wilkins.

1964: Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry for her development of X-ray crystallography techniques that allow the structure of biomolecules to be determined at a high resolution.

1978: Nobel prize in Chemistry awarded to Peter Mitchell “for his contribution to the understanding of biological energy transfer through the formulation of the chemiosmotic theory”.

1997: Nobel prize in Chemistry awarded to Paul Boyer and John Walker “for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of ATP”.

2003: Completion and publication of human genome sequence.

Further information about some of these findings and biochemists is available on the Biochemical Society website.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

UEA (University of East Anglia)