Hans von Euler-Chelpin received the 1929 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Humans learnt to ferment fruit juices thousands of years ago. The transformation of a sugar solution into alcohol has often been given divine explanations. Hans von Euler-Chelpin helped to throw light on the underlying complicated chemical processes, which at the same time constitute the basis of the chemistry of life.

The breakdown of sugar in the so-called glycolysis is largely controlled by enzymes. These large proteins keep the chemical reactions going. In his research on yeast cells, Hans von Euler-Chelpin showed that also a coenzyme is necessary for enzymes to be able to do their work. The chemical structure is abbreviated NAD and is present in all organisms, where it plays a fundamental role in its capacity to transport electrons to different parts of the cell.

Research on glycolysis plays an important part in the understanding of life. The ten stages of reaction that break down sugar constitute the basis of a long chain of reactions in different organisms. Besides being transformed into ethanol in yeast cells, glycolysis provides energy that keeps our cells going and provides building blocks for proteins. Hans von Euler-Chelpin’s work provided a basis for that knowledge. He also studied vitamins and showed, for example, that colouring agents such as betacarotenoids in vegetables are transformed into vitamin A in the body.

German-born Hans von Euler-Chelpin became a scientist during his time as a young art student. An interest in the optical characteristics of colours led to studies in chemistry and physics. He came to Stockholm University College in 1897 and became professor here in 1906. This constituted the beginning of his successful research career.

Hans von Euler-Chelpin shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1929 with Arthur Harden.