Christian B. Anfinsen

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Christian B. Anfinsen, 1969
Christian B. Anfinsen and US President Jimmy Carter, 1980
Christian B. Anfinsen in the laboratory, undated

Christian Boehmer Anfinsen (born March 26, 1916 in Monessen , Pennsylvania , † May 14, 1995 in Randallstown , Maryland ) was an American biochemist . In 1972 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Stanford Moore and William H. Stein . Anfinsen received the award "for his work on ribonuclease , in particular the connection between amino acid sequence and biologically active conformations ".


Anfinsen, the son of Norwegian immigrants, studied chemistry at Swarthmore College from 1933 . In 1937 he completed his studies with a bachelor's degree, followed in 1939 with a master's degree in organic chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania . In 1939, a grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation enabled Anfinsen to do research at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen . After the outbreak of World War II , he returned to the United States in 1940. In 1941 he received a doctoral scholarship at Harvard Medical School , two years later he did his doctorate with A. Baird Hastings with the dissertation Quantitative Histochemical Studies of the Retina in Biochemistry . Anfinsen remained at Harvard as an assistant professor until 1950 . From 1950 to 1981 he held various positions at the National Institutes of Health . During this time research stays at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen (1954) and at the Weizmann Institute for Sciences in Rechowot (1958–1959) as well as a visiting professorship at Harvard (1962–1963). In 1958, Anfinsen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , 1963 to the National Academy of Sciences and 1975 to the American Philosophical Society . From 1981 to 1982 he was visiting professor of biochemistry at the Weizmann Institute, after which he was a professor at Johns Hopkins University until his death .

Christian B. Anfinsen was married to Florence Bernice Kenenger from 1941 to 1978, and they had three children. From 1979 he was married to Libby Esther Shulman Ely and converted to Orthodox Judaism in the same year .


In the 1950s and 1960s, Anfinsen devoted himself primarily to investigations into protein structure and protein folding . In 1954, with experiments on a ribonuclease , he demonstrated the relationship between the amino acid sequence and the spatial structure of the protein. In 1961, Anfinsen showed that the secondary and tertiary structure of a protein are determined by its primary structure. From 1963 he turned to the ribonuclease of Staphylococcus aureus , which he isolated in 1966 using affinity chromatography and later completely sequenced. In the 1970s, Christian Anfinsen devoted himself to interferon research, and from 1983 onwards he increasingly focused on Pyrococcus furiosus .

Publications (selection)

  • Christian B. Anfinsen: The Molecular Basis of Evolution . John Wiley & Sons, 1959. (full text)

Web links

Commons : Christian B. Anfinsen  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. "for his work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active confirmation"
  2. Life data, publications and academic family tree of Christian B. Anfinsen at, accessed on January 1, 2018.
  3. US National Library of Medicine: The Christian B. Anfinsen Papers - Biographical Information .
  4. ^ Anfinsen, Christian B., Robert R. Redfield, Warren I. Choate, Juanita Page, and William R. Carroll: Studies on the Gross Structure, Cross-Linkages, and Terminal Sequences in Ribonuclease. Journal of Biological Chemistry 207, 1 (March 1954): 201-210. PMID 13152095 full text
  5. ^ Anfinsen, B., Haber, E .: Studies on the reduction and re-formation of protein disulfide bonds. Journal of Biological Chemistry 236, (May 1961): 1361-3. PMID 13683523 .