Nobel and beyond
four years after the vitamin C discovery, Szent-Györgyi received
the Nobel Prize for his seminal work. That year, in 1937, the deliberations
in the Nobel Committee centered on whether the Prize should go to Szent-Györgyi
alone or be shared with several other scientists who had conducted similar
work. In the end, the Prize was given to Szent-Györgyi alone, but
the deliberations were reportedly long and acrimonious.
Szent-Györgyi went on to identify and study actin and myosin, proteins
responsible for muscle contraction, and demonstrated that the compound
adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the immediate source of energy necessary
for muscle contraction. He later carried out additional studies of citrus
fruits, identifying vitamin P and postulating its function as strengthening
capillary blood vessels.
Szent-Györgyi then turned to the study of organic compounds known
to play a part in the breakdown of carbohydrates to carbon dioxide,
water, and other substances necessary for the production of usable energy
by the cell. His work laid the foundation for Sir Hans Krebs' explanation
of what later would be known as the Krebs cycle: the three-stage process
by which living cells break down organic molecules in the presence of
oxygen to harvest the energy required for growth and division.
In 1947, Szent-Györgyi immigrated to the United States, where he
assumed the directorship of the Institute for Muscle Research in Woods
Hole, Massachusetts. There he investigated the causes of cell division
and the root causes of cancer. He was an accomplished and prolific author,
producing among other works "The Crazy Ape" (1970), a passionate
commentary on science and the prospects for human survival on Earth.
Albert Szent-Györgyi died on October 22, 1986.