Sir Ernst Chain (1906-1979)

British biochemist. Born on 19 June 1906 in Berlin. Chain graduated from the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin in 1930. In 1933 he emigrated to England where he conducted research at the Sir William Dunn School of Biochemistry at Cambridge University.

In 1935 Howard Florey invited him to work as a lecturer in chemical pathology at Oxford University, where Chain, in collaboration with Florey, investigated Alexander Fleming’s 1928 discovery that the mould Penicillium notatum exhibited antibacterial properties. In 1945 Chain and Florey shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Fleming, in recognition of their work in isolating and purifying penicillin for use against infection.

In 1949 Chain moved to Rome where, in 1950, he became Professor of Biochemistry at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and Scientific Director of the International Research Centre for Chemical Microbiology. In 1961 he returned to England as Professor of Biochemistry at London’s Imperial College and in 1969 he received a knighthood.

Chain retired in 1973, when he was made Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow of Imperial College. He died in Ireland on 12 August 1979.