- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Albert Szent-Györgyi von Nagyrapolt

Born  1893
Died  1986

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Hungarian-American biochemist, born September 16, 1893, Budapest; died October 22, 1986, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA.

Biography of Albert Szent-Györgyi von Nagyrapolt

Albert Szent-Györgyi von Nagyrapolt's research primarily concerned the mechanism of biological oxidation processes in living organisms, metabolism, muscular biology, and vitamins. In 1937 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine ”for his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes, with especial reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid.”

While working at the Cambridge University (1927-1929) and the Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota (1928), Szent-Gyšrgyi found and isolated ascorbic acid and prepared it from paprika.

He was professor at the University of Szeged from 1931 to 1945, and there, in 1932, demonstrated that ascorbic acid is identical to the anti-scorbut vitamin C, which had been discovered in 1907 by the Norwegian hygienist and bacteriologist Axel Holst (1860-1931) and the Norwegian paediatrician Theodor Christian Brun Frölich (1870-1957).

Szent-Györgyi turned to the study of organic compounds known to play a part in the conversion of carbohydrate-breakdown product into carbon dioxide and other substances necessary for the cell’s production of usable energy. His work laid the foundation for Sir Hans Adolf Krebs elucidation of the complete citric acid cycle (Krebs's cycle) two years later.

While studying the biochemistry of muscular action, he discovered in the muscles a protein he termed ”actin”, and demonstrated that this, in combination with the muscle protein myocin, is responsible for muscular contraction, and demonstrated that the compound adenosine-triphosphatase (ATP) is the primary source of energy in muscular contraction.

He was professor at the university in Budapest from 1945 to 1947, when he emigrated to the United States. He was immediately appointed director of the Institute for Muscle Research, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where for many years he headed the research on the causes of cellular division, also in cancer. After leaving this position in 1962 he was professor of biophysics at Dartmouth Medical School and Brandeis University, Massachusetts, until 1966.

An ardent opponent of the U.S. military politics in Viet Nam, in 1970 he published The Crazy Ape, a critical and pessimistic comment on the political leaders of the world and the auspices for human survival.

The University of Szeged was renamed in his honour as Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical University, Szeged

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.

If any student comes to me and says he wants to be useful to mankind and go into research to alleviate human suffering, I advise him to go into charity instead. Research wants real egotists who seek their own pleasure and satisfaction, but find it in solving the puzzles of nature.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.

    'It's unbelievable. They have made me the father of vitamin C, while I wasn't, and they have refused to make me the father of vitamin P, which I was.' You know, there was always this feeling of regret, because he knew that both substances were needed to conquer scurvy."
    Szent-Györgyi in a conversation with professor Jack Masqulier
    (Medical Faculty of Bordeaux University),
    the inventor of the pine bark and grape seed extraction process around 1950.

    As far as I can remember, it was very rarely that I found the answer to any of my problems by conscious thinking. This conscious thinking only acted as a primer for my brain, which seemed to work much better without my muddling when I was asleep or fishing. I think that without such concentration and devotion nothing can be achieved, be it in art or in science. When Newton was asked how he made his discoveries, he replied: “By always thinking into them.”
    Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 1962, 5: 173.

    Knowledge is a sacred cow, and my problem will be how we can milk her while keeping clear of her horns.
    Science, 1964, 146: 1278.

    What drives life is thus a little electric current, kept up by the sunshine. All the complexities of intermediary metabolism are but the lacework around this basic fact.
    Introduction to Submolecular Biology, Chapter 3.

    There is no real difference between the grass and he who mowes it. The muscles which move the mower need the very same two substances for their motion as the grass needs for its growth, potassium and phosphate, the two substances we put in our lawn as fertilizers so as to have something to mow – a strikingly simple demonstration of the basic unity of living Nature.

    Somehow, problems get into my blood and they don’t give me peace, they torture me. I have to get them out of my system, and there is but one way to get them out – by solving them. A problem solved is no problem at all, it just disappears.
    Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 1962, 5: 173.


  • Nobel-Vortrag von Albert von Szent-Gyšrgyi. Les Prix Nobel en 1937.
  • On Oxidation, Fermentation, Vitamins, Health and Disease. 1940.
  • Chemical Physiology of Contractions in Body and Heart Muscle. 1953.
  • Introduction to a Submolecular Biology. 1960.
  • Lost in the Twentieth Century. (An autobiographical article)
    Annual Review of Biochemistry, 1963, 32: 1-14.
  • The Crazy Ape. 1970.

What is an eponym?

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, whether real or fictional. A medical eponym is thus any word related to medicine, whose name is derived from a person.

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