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Introduction from Prof David Richardson, UEA Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia highlights Biochemistry as a science discipline in its own right for over 100 years.
Today, many universities offer both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Biochemistry, sometimes through independent departments. However, this was not always the case. Many of the early biochemical discoveries were made in the late 19th and early 20th century by pioneering scientists specialising in one of the two parent disciplines, which today we recognise as physiology or chemistry. Medical schools pioneered studies in biochemistry as the foundation of understanding physiology and the mechanisms of disease. Alongside this chemists began to isolate, characterise and synthesise key natural products formed by living organisms, such as hormones and enzymes, proving that chemical laws can be applied to both living and non-living things with equal success.
It soon became evident that fundamental biochemical pathways that occur within cells are more than just linear sequences of chemical reactions, but in fact involve complex and highly integrated chemical systems, whose composition and interactions are organised at a level which cannot be adequately explained by the methods of either biology or chemistry alone. The founding of the Biochemical Society in 1911 and its acquisition of the Biochemical Journal the following year was the result of a collective effort of like-minded scientists to establish Biochemistry as an independent scientific discipline in the UK.
Since then, revolutionary discoveries such as recognition of human diseases caused by altered metabolism, the double helix structure of DNA, development of protein crystallography, and the understanding of the genetic code, have helped to secure its rightful place at the forefront of scientific research. There is now no doubt that Biochemistry is a recognisably distinct discipline that has made, and continues to make, significant improvements to society.

The head of the University of East Anglia is its Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Richardson. Here, he highlights how Biochemistry has been a science discipline in its own right for over 100 years.

Professor Richardson is a biochemist by training and he still oversees a world-leading research group at the University of East Anglia. In week 2 of this course he will return to provide further details about his background and to highlight important topics involving biochemistry.

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Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

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