Martin Karplus

Martin Karplus ( born March 15, 1930 in Vienna) is an American theoretical chemist Austrian origin. On October 9, 2013, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems " granted.


Born in Vienna - Family Karplus belonged to the Jewish upper middle class - Martin Karplus spent his childhood with his father, the businessman Hans Karplus, his mother Isabella Lucie Karplus, née Gold Star ( March 12, 1900 (3 September 1898-1 September 1971. ) -19 March. , 1967) and his 1927 -born brother Robert (later theoretical physicist and physics teacher at the University of Berkeley ) in the 19th district of Vienna, in the area between the old vintner places Sievering and Unterdöbling Paradisgasse where you lived at No. 57.

First in the family seemed his career mapped out as medical students: His paternal grandfather was the neurophysiologist and professor at the University of Vienna Johann Paul Karplus, married to Valerie of Love, daughter of Anna von Lieben and sister Robert of loving, the inventor of the electron tube as an amplifier; The couple lived at the Palais Karplus loving Auspitz against the University of Vienna. Martin Karplus's maternal grandfather, Samuel Gold Star, ran the so-called mud sanatorium, one of the most famous Viennese sanatoriums.

After the "Anschluss " of Austria to Nazi German Empire, in 1938, his father was imprisoned for a few months in order to extort the family 's assets can. His mother fled with Martin and his brother Robert Karplus via Switzerland to the United States, where the family ( the father) arrived on October 8, 1938. Karplus has his birth through naturalization of Austrian and American citizen.

In the U.S., Martin Karplus studied from 1947 at Harvard University chemistry and acquired in 1950 the degree of BA. After transferring to the California Institute of Technology and a PhD in the research group of the later two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling 1953 Ph. D.. From 1953 to 1955 he worked under a postdoctoral stay at Charles Coulson at Oxford University. In 1955 he became instructor and later Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Illinois and in 1960 he became associate professor and later professor at Columbia University.

Since 1966, Karplus is Professor at Harvard University, where he became in 1979 the Theodore William Richards - chair of chemistry. Since 1995 he is also professor at the Institut de Science et d' Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (ISIS ) at the University Louis Pasteur ( Strasbourg University I) in France.

1972/73 1974 /75 and 1980/81 he was a visiting professor at the University of Paris, 1980/81 and 1987/88 at the College de France.

In addition to his scientific work, Karplus is a passionate photographer. Already during his studies and later during lecture tours in Latin America, China and Japan, he photographed landscapes and street scenes. In the summer of 2013 a selection from it was under the title " Martin Karplus, la couleur des années 50 " presented at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

He has been married since 1981 and has three children.


The work of Karplus are important contributions to the field of physical chemistry. Particularly important are the works in the area of ​​NMR spectroscopy, chemical dynamics, quantum mechanics and molecular dynamics simulation of biological macromolecules.

His best known work is the Karplus relationship which in NMR spectroscopy, the dependence of the coupling constant describes the dihedral angle between the coupling nuclei.

Together with Andrew McCammon and Bruce Gelin, he published the first molecular dynamics simulation of a protein, Bovine Pancreatic Trypsin Inhibitor ( BPTI ). His current research interests include the simulation of biologically interesting molecules and the development of the CHARMM computer program.

Awards (selection)

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.