The Nobel Foundation
Christian Anfinsen

Florida Atlantic University Libraries

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

A Judaica Collection Exhibit


ChristianAnfinsen: Nobel Prize Recipient in Chemistry-1972

by Seymour Brody

Christian Anfinsen was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, in 1972. He received this award for work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation.

He was born on March 26, 1916, in Monesson, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Sophie and Christian Anfinsen, emigrants from Norway. His parents taught their children the Norwegian language and about their heritage.

Anfinsen’s family moved to Philadelphia and he enrolled on a scholarship to Swarthmore College. He graduated with a B.S. Degree in Chemistry, in 1937. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and received his M.S. Degree in Organic Chemistry, in 1939. He entered Harvard University for their Ph.D. program in chemistry and he received it in 1943.

In 1941, he married his first wife Florence Bernice Kenenger, with whom he had three children. The marriage ended in 1978. He met and married Libby Esther Schulman Ely, in 1979. He converted to Orthodox Judaisim through some religious processes and retained it for the rest of his life. In Anfinsen’s writing, his feeling was that the history, practice and intensity of Judaism were an extremely interesting philosophical package.

He received many honors and awards:
• University of Pennsylvania, 1973
• Gustavus Adolphus College, 1975
• Brandeis University, 1977
• Providence College of Rhode Island, 1978
• Yeshiva University, 1982
• Adelphi University of New York, 1987
• University of Las Palmas, Canary Islands, 1993
• Honorary Doctor of Medicine award from the University of Naples, Italy, 1982.
• Honorary Fellow Award, Weitzman Institute of Science, Israel, 1969
• Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford, England, 1970, Berson, Memorial
• Lecture, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NYC, 1979
• Pontifical Academy of Science, The Vatican
• Hebrew University of Jerusalem Medal. 1985
• Genetic Engineering Lectures, Kon Kuk University, Korea.1988
• The National Institutes of Health/Israel Alumni Association Leadership established in honor of Christian B Anfinsen, 1994.
In addition to these honors, must be included,:
• The Rockefeller Foundation Public Service Award,
• Guggenheim Fellowship.
• A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Biological Chemists
• The Royal Danish Academy
• Anfinsen was an opponent of biological weapons and was a member of the Committee for responsible Genetics.

On May 14, 1995, he died of a heart attack in the Northwest Hospital Center, Randallstown, Maryland, of a. His achievements in life are an inspiration to all young people wanting to emulate him in the science of chemistry


For additional information, contact
Special Collections and Archives
S.E. Wimberly Library


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Last updated 20 July 2007

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