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Professor Sir Hans Kornberg FRS

Prof Hans KornbergBiochemist and Patron of Humanists UK

Hans Kornberg was born in 1928 in Germany of Jewish parents. In 1928, after Kristallnacht, he was forbidden to go to school and in 1939 he left Nazi Germany (although his parents did not escape) to live with an uncle in Yorkshire . Initially he attended a school for German refugees but later transferred to Wakefield Grammar School;. On leaving school he became a junior laboratory technician at the University of Sheffield under Dr  (later Sir) Hans Krebs, who encouraged him to apply for a scholarship at the same university and in 1949 he graduated with a BSc Honours in Chemistry, and then went on to a PhD in biochemistry. He then worked in the USA for two years before returning to the UK and a post at Oxford University under Sir Hans Krebs; they collaborated on the first major publication on biological thermodynamics. In 1960 he was appointed to the first Chair in Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, which he held until 1975 when he was elected to the Sir William Dunn Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. From 1982 to 1995 he was also Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge.

On reaching the mandatory retirement age in 1995, he left the Cambridge chair to take up a position as a University Professor and Professor of Biology at Boston University, USA, where he teaches biochemistry. His major research area is the nature and regulation of carbohydrate transport in micro-organisms, and he has published over 250 papers in professional journals.

He has advised on science policy and served on various national scientific committees; for example the Science Research Council, the Institute of Biology, the Hooke Committee of the Royal Society, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the European Molecular Biology Organisation, the Agricultural and Food Research Council; the Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA; the Nuffield Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.  He was President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, (1984-5), became the first President of the UK Biochemical Society in 1990, and of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1991. He has spoken about the importance of public environmental education, the need to regulate science in ways that are scientifically sound and acceptable, and of the need for scientific input into public policy. He is a board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology, which briefs MPs on such topics as salmonella, BSE, AIDS, cancer, the greenhouse effect, genetic manipulation, etc.

He has received many honours for his work, including election to the Royal Society in 1965 and a knighthood for “services to science” in 1978. He has been awarded 11 honorary doctorates and been elected into membership of many eminent institutions, including the  National Academies of Sciences of the USA, Germany and Italy.

In 2003 he was one of the signatories to a letter supporting a holiday on Charles’ Darwin’s birthday, published in The Times on February 12, and also sent to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. In July 2009 he joined other eminent scientists and educators calling for vital changes to the proposed science curriculum for primary schools in England in a letter to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

See also his Wikipedia profile http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Kornberg

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