Born: 8 April 1911, St. Paul, MN, USA
Died: 8 January 1997, Berkeley, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants."
Prize share: 1/1
One of the most fundamental processes of life is photosynthesis. Green plants use energy from sunlight to make carbohydrates out of water and carbon dioxide in the air. Through studies during the early 1950s, particularly of single-cell green algae, Melvin Calvin and his colleagues traced the path taken by carbon through different stages of photosynthesis. For this they made use of tools such as radioactive isotopes and chromatography. Their findings included insight into the important role played by phosphorous compounds during the composition of carbohydrates.