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THE INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE OF THE CARLSBERG LABORATORY ON PROTEIN CHEMISTRY CHRISTIAN B. ANFINSEN* At any given time, certain scientific centers fall within that magic circle of institutions that one recommends to postdoctoral students in search of additional training. The composition of this circle changes from decade to decade and is dependent on the emergence ofnew techniques or broad concepts—either theoretical or experimental—and frequently on the imagination and charisma of one or two individuals. When I was planning a sabbatical, this group of scientific meccas included the MRC at Cambridge, with its glittering constellation of stars; the Pasteur Institute in the exciting days of Jacob and Monod at their best; and this institution, NIH, which has benefited so highly from its foreign visitors and from the large group of bright, young M.D.'s who were able to stay out of a senseless war in the 1950s and 1960s. A number of other institutions were clearly members of this international fraternity. One of these was the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, which happened to be my selection in 1954. It is important to spell out what we mean by the term "international cooperation in science." There is, actually, a very limited amount of cooperation among laboratories in different countries in terms of collaborative research on a specific project. Cooperation generally takes the form of exchange of personnel—either those involved in postdoctoral study or more advanced sabbatical visitors. By this means, a single scientific center, attracting at any one time a number of foreign visitors, can efficiently and quickly distribute its scientific specialties to many other laboratories. The Carlsberg Laboratory owes a great deal ofits international notoriety and influence to a long tradition of excellence, beginning with the studies on proteins carried out by Sorensen, who preceded Kaj Linder- *Department of Biology, The Johns Hopkins University, Charles and 34th Street, Baltimore , Maryland 21218.© 1986 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 003 1 -5982/86/2932/101 .00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 29, 3, Part 2 ¦ Spring 1986 \ S87 strom-Lang as director. Much of Lang's knowledge and approach to science grew out of his exposure to his mentor. In his Lane Medical Lectures at Stanford University in 1952, Lang made the following remarks about Sorensen: "His field was that of protein and enzyme chemistry, and at his death twelve years ago, he had brought it to a state of greater order and higher clarity than when he adopted it in 1900. He was a pioneer in quantitative research in biochemistry, father of pH, and the first who treated protein molecules as reliable individuals. The tradition he has created at the Carlsberg Laboratory is what we are trying to base our work on, as I hope you will see from the following lectures" [I]. I had the great good fortune to spend two periods at the Carlsberg Laboratory, first in 1939-1940 during the ultramicro-histochemistry days, and again, after the war, in 1954-1955. Both visits found the characteristic collection of talented and motivated visitors who had been attracted by the reputation of the place and, quite naturally, by the backdrop of Copenhagen with its varied cultural offerings. The originality and personal characteristics of Linderstrom-Lang were certainly central factors in the popularity of the laboratory. As so often happens with research centers that have succeeded internationally, Carlsberg alumni form an unofficial but highly chauvinistic "club." I have often played the game of reminiscence with my contemporaries: Harrington, Schellman, Richards, Ieuan Harris, Kauzmann, Lowry, Zamecnik, Lumry, Hotchkiss, and many others. However, the main point to emphasize about the Carlsberg Laboratory is its fundamental scientific contributions to the field of protein chemistry. Continuing the studies of Sorensen on the electrical properties of proteins, Lang applied the newly published work of Debye and Hückel to the polyelectrolyte nature of macromolecules. His classical paper in 1924 [2] undoubtedly had considerable impact on the thinking of Cohn and Edsall and on the Kirkwood-Onsager group at Yale University. The studies carried out by Lang and his colleagues over several decades on the proteolytic digestion of protein molecules had a variety of spinoffs. This long series of experiments led to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. S87-S89
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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