Melvin Calvin

Melvin Calvin ( born April 8, 1911 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, † January 8, 1997 in Berkeley, California ) was an American chemist, biochemist and Nobel Prize winner, who succeeded after the Second World War to elucidate the secondary reaction of photosynthesis.

The discovery of the Calvin cycle

He established his research group at the University of California at Berkeley, such as plants fix CO2 and elucidate which biochemical reactions here. To elucidate these processes he used the labeling of molecules with radioactive atoms.

Calvin first green algae of the genus Chlorella and sat Scenedesmus in a solution which sent out the radioactive isotope of carbon [], which radiation, containing carbon dioxide in the form of []. The algae were illuminated and operated photosynthesis, where they recorded. After the exposure time, they were killed in hot alcohol and their cell contents removed. This was followed by a separation of these substances by paper chromatography. Because of this Calvin substances were colorless, he put his chromatogram to X-ray film, which was stained black by radioactive radiation of the carbon isotope. To identify the substances a Vergleichschromatographie was made. Take along a known and an unknown substance the same position in the chromatogram a, it is believed that these substances are identical.

After Calvin had twelve different chemical compounds found, he went from figuring out the order of their synthesis.

He staggered back a solution with radioactive carbon dioxide, but its exposed algae of different lengths. Glyceric acid phosphate ( body a molecule with three carbon atoms ): after a few seconds of exposure, only a single radioactive material was formed.

The further sequence of substance as well as their structural formulas can be found under the Calvin cycle.

As the last reaction product was Ribulosebiphosphat (also ribulose bisphosphate or ribulose, a molecule with five carbon atoms; body ).

This connects body with a molecule so it creates a body that breaks down due to its instability in two - body, which could be detected the first radioactive material.

Calvin graduated from the results of his experiments, that it had to be a cycle, which was later named in his honor " Calvin cycle ". In 1959 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina. In 1961 he was awarded for his work eventually awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

In November 1961, Melvin Calvin participants of the first SETI conference at the Green Bank Observatory.


His parents were Russian Jews. In 1942 he married Genevieve Jemtegaard. They had two daughters, Elin and Karole, and one son, Noel.