Britton Chance

National Medal of Science

Biological Sciences

For his contributions to our knowledge of cellular and subcellular physiology made through work on enzyme-substrate complexes, on the kinetics of enzyme action, and on the mechanism and control of membrane-bound electron transfer during cellular respiration.

For his contributions to our knowledge of cellular and subcellular physiology made through work on enzyme-substrate complexes, on the kinetics of enzyme action, and on the mechanism and control of membrane-bound electron transfer during cellular respiration.

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Birth
July 24, 1913
Age Awarded
61
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Stop Flow Device Used To Measure Enzyme-Subtrate Complex In Enzyme Reactions
Awarded by
Gerald R. Ford
Education
University of Pennsylvania
Areas of Impact
Health & Medicine
Affiliations
University of Pennsylvania
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When it comes to both brains and brawn, few scientists compare to Britton Chance. The biophysicist – best known for his research of chemical reactions within the body – earned a gold medal for sailing in the 5.5-meter class at the 1952 summer Olympics in Helsinki.

Through his mid-80s, Chance traveled on his 10-speed bicycle to his research lab in Philadelphia, where he worked 12-hour days, six days a week, developing diagnostic tools to detect afflictions like breast cancer.

Early in his career, Chance invented the “stopped-flow apparatus,” used to mimic and measure chemical reactions of enzymes that occur in nature.

Two syringes in the device – one filled with enzymes and the other with an agent called “substrate” – empty simultaneously into a spectrophotometer, where rapid reactions could be studied.

The ability to observe these reactions has helped scientists determine the rate at which enzymes perform, prompting discoveries in bodily functions including metabolism.

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