Highlights in photosynthesis research

1771 Joseph Priestley, England, discovers that plants can “purify” air that has been “burned out” by a candle.
1779 Jan Ingenhousz, The Netherlands, demonstrates that the plant in Priestley’s experiment is dependent on light and its green parts.
1782-1804 Several researchers show that carbon dioxide and water are stored as organic matter by plants.
1845 Robert Mayer, Germany, points out that plants store solar energy in organic matter.
ca 1915 Richard Willstätter, Germany, (Nobel Prize 1915) suggests that chlorophyll plays an active role in plants.
ca 1930 Cornelis van Niel, USA, proposes that photosynthesis is based on oxidation-reduction reactions and that the primary reaction is a photolysis of water followed by oxygen evolution.
1932 Robert Emerson and William Arnold, USA, conclude that several hundred chlorophyll molecules cooperate in photosynthesis.
1939 Robert Hill, England, demonstrates that photolysis of water and carbon dioxide fixation are separate processes.
1940 Hans Fischer, Germany, solves the chemical structure of chlorophyll. (Nobel Prize 1930 for his investigations of hemes and chlorophyll.)
1954 Melvin Calvin, USA, (Nobel Prize 1961) and coworkers unravel the reactions of carbon dioxide fixation.
1954 Daniel Arnon, USA, discovers light-dependent synthesis of ATP (photophosphorylation).
1960-1961 Robert Hill and Fay Bendall, England, and independently Louis Duysens, The Netherlands, show how two separate photosystems cooperate in plants.
1968 William Parson, USA, confirms Duysens’ hypothesis (1956) that chlorophyll is oxidized in the primary reaction of photosynthesis.
1984 Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and Hartmut Michel, The Federal Republic of Germany, solve the structure of a photosynthetic reaction center from a bacterium.

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