Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Axel Hugo Theodor Theorell
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1955
Born: 6 July 1903, Linköping, Sweden
Died: 15 August 1982, Stockholm, Sweden
Affiliation at the time of the award: Karolinska Institutet, Nobel Medical Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
Prize motivation: "for his discoveries concerning the nature and mode of action of oxidation enzymes."
Prize share: 1/1
Hugo Theorell was born in Linköping, Sweden. His father worked as a regimental medical officer. Hugo Theorell studied medicine at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, receiving his degree in 1930. After receiving a Rockefeller Fellowship, he worked with Otto Warburg in Berlin-Dahlem from 1933 to 1935, where he conducted some of his most important work. He became a professor at Sweden's Uppsala University in 1937 and then at Karolinska Institutet in 1959. Hugo Theorell was married to concert pianist Margit Alenius and had three sons.
Catalysts are substances that speed up chemical reactions without influencing the end products. Enzymes are catalysts active in biological processes. Hugo Theorell and colleagues investigated how enzymes that promote oxidation reactions are constructed and function. A breakthrough came in 1935 when he demonstrated how a yellow-colored enzyme in yeast had two parts, both of which were crucial to its function. He also explained how iron atoms in many enzymes have an important function in transporting electrons.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.