Konrad Emil Bloch

About Konrad Emil Bloch

Who is it?: Biochemist
Birth Year: 1912
Birth Place: Neisse (Nysa), Silesia, Prussia, German Empire, American
Awards: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Konrad Emil Bloch

Konrad Emil Bloch was born on 1912 in Neisse (Nysa), Silesia, Prussia, German Empire, American, is Biochemist. Konrad Bloch was a German American biochemist who was awarded the ‘Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine’ in 1964 along with another German biochemist Feodor Lynen for their independent discoveries related to the mechanism and control of the cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. He was a Jew and had to escape Nazi Germany following the rise of Adolf Hitler to power. He took refuge initially in Switzerland and later America, eventually becoming a naturalized American citizen. He conducted significant research work in America. His studies regarding the complex procedures applied by animal cells to produce cholesterol made the biochemistry of living animals more comprehensible. These investigations of Bloch manifested significance of cholesterol in cells of animals and aided in laying the foundation for further research work on the analysis and cure of different common ailments. He also analysed all the twenty-seven carbon atoms present in cholesterol molecule. Through his investigations he displayed that the organic molecule called cholesterol evolves the natural steroid-related substances in human being. Many steps involved in conversion of acetate to cholesterol were established by him. During the later stage of his career he examined metabolism of olefinic fatty acids as also researched on the vital antioxidant called glutathione, which aided protein metabolism.
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Bloch was born in Neisse (Nysa), in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia. He was the second child of middle-class parents Hedwig (Striemer) and Frederich D. "Fritz" Bloch. From 1930 to 1934, he studied chemistry at the Technical University of Munich. In 1934, due to the Nazi persecutions of Jews, he fled to the Schweizerische Forschungsinstitut in Davos, Switzerland, before moving to the United States in 1936. Later he was appointed to the department of biological chemistry at Yale Medical School.


In the United States, Bloch enrolled at Columbia University, and received a Ph.D in biochemistry in 1938. He taught at Columbia from 1939 to 1946. From there he went to the University of Chicago and then to Harvard University as Higgins Professor of Biochemistry in 1954, a post he held until 1982. After retirement at Harvard, he served as the Mack and Effie Campbell Tyner Eminent Scholar Chair in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University.


Bloch and Lore Teutsch first met in Munich; in 1941 they married in the U.S. They had two children, Peter C. Bloch and Susan E. Bloch. He had two grandchildren, Benjamin N. Bloch and Emilie Bloch Sondel. He was fond of skiing, tennis, and music. Konrad Bloch died in Lexington, Massachusetts of congestive heart failure, aged 88. Lore Bloch died in 2010 aged 98.


Bloch shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1964 with Feodor Lynen, for their discoveries concerning the mechanism and regulation of the cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. Their work showed that the body first makes squalene from acetate over many steps and then converts the squalene to cholesterol. He traced all the carbon atoms in cholesterol back to acetate. Some of his research was conducted using radioactive acetate in bread mold: this was possible because fungi also produce squalene. He confirmed his results using rats. He was one of several researchers who showed that acetyl Coenzyme A is turned into mevalonic acid. Both Bloch and Lynen then showed that mevalonic acid is converted into chemically active isoprene, the precursor to squalene. Bloch also discovered that bile and a female sex hormone were made from cholesterol, which led to the discovery that all steroids were made from cholesterol. His Nobel Lecture was "The Biological Synthesis of Cholesterol."


In 1985, Bloch became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1988, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.

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