Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Jens C. Skou
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1997
Born: 8 October 1918, Lemvig, Denmark
Died: 28 May 2018
Affiliation at the time of the award: Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Prize motivation: "for the first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na+, K+ -ATPase."
Prize share: 1/2
Many of the cell's functions, such as those concerned with nerve impulses, muscular contractions and digestion, require that the concentration of potassium ions inside the cell is higher than outside it, whereas the concentration of sodium ions must be lower inside than outside. It takes a great deal of energy to bring this about. The energy is stored in a special substance, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In 1957 Jens Christian Skou discovered an enzyme, Na+/K+-ATPase, that serves as a sort of biological pump to transport ions.