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Melvin Calvin (April 8, 1911 – January 8, 1997)

American biochemist , Melvin Ellis Calvin was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of ‘Calvin Cycle’ , which furthered the knowledge on the mechanism of photosynthesis.


Melvin Calvin earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1935.He joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1937.

Using the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin, Andrew Benson and James Bassham mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis, starting from its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide to its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds. The trio showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacturing of organic compounds, not on carbon dioxide as was believed earlier. Calvin was the sole recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for what is sometimes known as the Calvin-Benson-Bassham Cycle. Calvin wrote an autobiography three decades later titled Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey.

In his final years of active research, he studied the use of oil-producing plants as renewable sources of energy. He worked for a long time testing the chemical evolution of life and published a book written on the subject.

Calvin authored more than 600 articles and 7 books. His numerous awards includes – the Priestley Medal (1978), the American Chemical Society’s highest award, and the U.S. National Medal of Science (1989), the highest U.S. civilian scientific award.

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