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TitleStories of Success: Personal Recollections. X
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Table of Contents
Contributors to this volume
Odyssey of a Biochemist
	Growing Up in Three Different Countries
	Diamonds in the Desert
	Back to U.S.A.
	Discovery of Oxygenases
	Kyoto University, My Second Alma Mater
	The Mystery of Sleep
	Osaka Bioscience Institute
	Nature is the Guide
Dennis Chapman: Oiling the Path to Biomembrane Structure
	Dennis Chapman: The Scientist
	Gonville and Caius, Cambridge
	The Frythe Laboratories, Welwyn
	Reckitt & Coleman, Sheffield University
	London University, Chelsea College
	London University, Royal Free Hospital Medical School
	London University, Interdisciplinary Research Centre
	Dennis Chapman, The Man
Biographic Data
An Autobiographical Sketch: 50 Years in Cancer Immunochemistry
	In the Laboratory: Searches and Findings
		In Zilber’s Laboratory
		Individual Antigens and Monospecific Antibodies
		Alpha-fetoprotein AFP
	Resonance and Subsequent Studies
	Concluding Remarks
Document Text Contents
Page 2

and function of a peculiar blood clotting factor; or to discover
the alpha-feto-protein, which initiated cancer immunodiagnostics
(and in particular the carcino-embryonic research). The same
‘‘ingredients’’, as it were, were needed in the initial period of
metabolic biochemistry also, for the discovery of, e.g., the Embden–
Meyerhof–Parnas pathway of glucose degradation.

‘‘Luck’’ can be a helpful ingredient among the components,
which lead to a discovery. However, the unprecedented explosion
of molecular biological sciences began during the ‘‘age of
extremes’’ of the so-called short 20th century [3]. The scientists,
their families and friends, like other citizens, were hit by an
avalanche of horrors which swept through Europe and much of
the rest of the world before, during and after World War II. ‘‘Luck
in science’’ was often nullified by these catastrophic events. Many
were drafted and sent to the front; those who returned would find
their countries in ruins and shambles. Even after the aftermath of
World War II, emigration (which is always traumatic even in the
most favorable of circumstances) was often a required condition
to be scientifically active at all.

The Jews – always prominent in the molecular biological scien-
tific community – were discriminated against and persecuted well
before World War II began, and even more so during the war, not
only in Nazi-occupied Europe; but often in Soviet-block countries
too. Emigration had become for many a disguised sort of good luck.
But also non-Jews could be silenced for years – in some cases for-
ever – for whatever whimsical political [4] or pseudo-scientific [5]
reasons (to name but two examples).

Young molecular bioscientists, in particular, are invited to read
the scientific and tragic private life of J. Parnas. They may master
the intricacies of mutual interactions of protein kinases; but
they need not know that radioactive phosphate was introduced in
biochemistry by him, or that 1,6-phosphofructokinase and the
degradation of glycogen to eventually glucose 6-phosphate were
discovered in his laboratory. Parnas had created an excellent
department of biochemistry in Lemberg (this name was later
changed to Lviv and Lvov), which was also a flourishing center of
Jewish intelligentsia and activity. The Nazis destroyed it utterly.
Parnas escaped just in time; he was taken to central Asia and then
to Moscow, where he resumed his biochemical research – naturally
by cultivating also his contacts with the West. In so doing he
tempted his own fate as he was arrested and eventually taken to


Page 180

two molecules of glucose, six of CO2 and six of H2O may be
synthesized [9].

In 1913, Parnas was promoted Docent (Associate Professor)
at the University of Strasbourg and was listed in its staff up to
1918, although that time he was working in Poland. His collabo-
ration with Wagner who was located in Strasbourg would last five
years more.

The correlation between glycogen breakdown and lactic acid
formation had been postulated in these years. Fletcher and
Hopkins, Embden, Meyerhof and others did many valuable
experiments, but no clear, convincing image was formed and the
hypothesis was yet to be verified. Parnas and Wagner performed
highly sophisticated experiments on resting and working isolated
frog muscles in oxidative and anaerobic conditions. The content of
glycogen, glucose, phosphate and lactate was estimated at different
time of experiments. Their findings unquestionably concluded that
the decrease of carbohydrate content in working muscles is
accompanied by lactate formation. In aerobic conditions much
less lactate is present – less is formed, or it is metabolized
further [10,11]. Gustaw Embden and Otto Meyerhof later con-
firmed Parnas’ data and showed the equivalence between glucose
decrease and lactate increase. Parnas’ early works are an impor-
tant part in the history of biochemistry. Each observation repre-
sents a significant contribution to the understanding of tissue
metabolism, its pathways and the role of enzymes.

1914– 1920, the First World War: Decision to Work and
Live in the Independent Poland

When Parnas visited Cambridge in 1913, he started a productive
collaboration with Frederich Gowland Hopkins, the known
authority in the research on muscle metabolism. He continued
his cutting-edge investigation on the lactic acid production in
working muscle. After the beginning of the First World War in
1914, Parnas unfortunately has found himself in an uncomfort-
able position. Despite being an Austrian citizen, he was allowed to
stay in Great Britain and worked in Hopkins’ laboratory, but he
was unable to leave Cambridge and was restricted to travel freely.
Nevertheless, he was allowed to go to his native land. There, he
was called soon to serve in the Austrian army. As a chemist and
with the help of the known bacteriologist, Prof. Odo Bujwid, he


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