John Warcup Cornforth
Born: 7 September 1917, Sydney, Australia
Died: 8 December 2013
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions"
Field: organic chemistry, stereochemistry
Prize share: 1/2
Enzymes are substances that are active in biochemical processes but that are not incorporated into the final product. John Cornforth investigated the structure and transformation of various molecules in such processes, including how an enzyme replaces a certain hydrogen atom in a reacting molecule and what consequences this has. To study this, from the mid-1950s he made use of various isotopes of hydrogen - hydrogen atoms with different weights that also react at different speeds. On the basis of his results, he was able to produce several substances of biological importance.