Distinguished friends

Sir Hans Kornberg FRS

Hans Kornberg emigrated to England in 1939, at the age of 11, as a refugee from Nazi Germany. He was educated at various boarding schools and at the University of Sheffield, from which he graduated with degrees of BSc and PhD. From 1953 to 1955, he held a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship, at Yale, Berkeley and at the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York, returning to England as a Member of Scientific Staff, Medical Research Council Unit for Research in Cell Metabolism at Oxford. In 1958, he was awarded the degree of MA (Oxon) and was also appointed Lecturer in Biochemistry at Worcester College, University of Oxford.

In 1960, at the age of 32, Hans Kornberg was elected as the first Professor of Biochemistry in the University of Leicester; a year later, he was awarded the degree of DSc of the University of Oxford and, at the age of 37, was elected into the Fellowship of the Royal Society. In 1975, Professor Kornberg was appointed to the Sir William Dunn Chair of Biochemistry in the University of Cambridge and elected into a Fellowship of Christ’s College; in 1982 he was elected Master of that College. He held both posts until reaching the (mandatory) retirement age of 67 in 1995; he was awarded the degree of ScD (Cantab) in 1976.

Sir Hans’s scientific researches have been mainly aimed at understanding the molecular basis of metabolic processes that enable micro-organisms to utilise simple compounds as their sole source of carbon for energy and for growth; the factors that regulate the occurrence of such processes; and how they are integrated one with another. This work has been published in over 250 articles and has led to numerous awards and distinctions.

Professor Kornberg was knighted in 1978 and has received 11 Honorary Doctorates, from Universities in the UK, the USA, Australia, and Germany. He is also a Member of the German National Academy of Sciences ‘Leopoldina’ and of the Academia Europaeae; a Foreign Member or Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei; and of the American Philosophical Society. Sir Hans is an Honorary Member of the British, American, German and Japanese Biochemical Societies; a Fellow of the Society of Biologists, of the Royal Society of Arts, and of the American Academy of Microbiology, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London), of Brasenose and Worcester Colleges (Oxford), and of Wolfson College (Cambridge). He has received the Colworth Medal of the Biochemical Society and the Otto Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biological Chemistry; in 1996, he was elected an Honorary Member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society.

Sir Hans has held a number of posts in UK governmental and non-governmental organisations. He has served as President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Association for Science Education, and of the Biochemical Society; as Chairman of the Science Board of the Science Research Council, of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and of the Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification. He has also served as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, as a Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation, as a Governor of the Wellcome Trust and as a member of many advisory committees. In a wider context, he chaired the Advanced Studies Institutes Panel of NATO, was President of the International Union of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and is an Honorary or Emeritus Governor of the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, and of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1995, Sir Hans was appointed a Professor of Biology in Boston University, where he teaches and is actively engaged in research on carbohydrate transport mechanisms in Escherichia coli. He and his wife (Donna, Lady Haber Kornberg) and two golden retrievers have now made their home in Massachusetts.