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Lars Ernster

Born 1920
Died 1998

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Original name Ernster László Hungarian cell biologist, born 1920, Budapest, died November 4, 1998, Sweden.

Biography of Lars Ernster

Ernster László came to Sweden in 1946 and changed his name to Lars Ernster. During World War II, Lars Ernster he lived in the office of the Swedish Embassy in Budapest. The embassy had created a special department with Raoul Wallenberg (1912-1947?) at its head. It was staffed primarily with Jewish volunteers. Initially, there were 250 workers; later, Wallenberg had about 400 people working around the clock. Wallenberg had also rented 32 other buildings in Budapest and declared them as extraterritorial to prevent the people housed in them from being sent to concentration camps.

In the night of January 8, 1945 all inhabitants of the embassy were dragged away by an Arrow Cross Party executing brigade of the city commander near to the Danube banks. At midnight, 20 policemen with drawn bayonets broke into the Arrow Cross house and rescued everyone. The Arrow Cross Party was a pro-German anti-Semitic fascist party led by Ferenc Szálasi which ruled Hungary from October 15, 1944 to January 1945. During its short rule, 80,000 Jews, including many women, children and elderly were deported from Hungary to their deaths. After the war, Szálasi and other Arrow Cross leaders were tried as war criminals by Hungarian courts.

His wife Edith Ernster, who lived through that time, recalls: "It seemed so strange - this country of super-Aryans, the Swedes, taking us under their wings. Often, when an Orthodox Jew went by, in his hat, beard and sidelocks, we'd say, 'Look, there goes another Swede.'

Ernster played a prominent role in the scientific community and took his Ph.D. degree at the Stockholm University in 1956. Until 1967 he was the head of the division for Physiological Chemistry at the Wenner-Gren Institute. From 1967 to 1986 he was a professor of biochemistry and chairman of the Department of Biochemistry. From 1971 to 1974 Dean of the Chemical Section of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the Stockholm University.

Ernster was a member of the Nobel Committee for chemistry 1977-1988 and a member of the Board of the Nobel Foundation. In 1978 he gave the presentation speech on the occasion of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Peter D. Mitchell (1920-1992) "for his contribution to the understanding of biological energy transfer through the formulation of the chemiosmotic theory".

Ernster also he acted as General Secretary for the International Council of Scientific Unions, President of the International Cell Research Organization and as President of the International Society for Vitamins and Related Cofactors. From 1986 to 1994, he held the position of President of the European Branch of the International Life Sciences Institute. He has also acted as special advisor for UNESCO in the areas of scientific research and higher education. He was elected member of some 20 different scientific academies and organisations, and was awarded a number of honorary doctorates.

Lars Ernster was a highly productive and successful researcher, authoring and co-authoring more than 500 publications in the area of biochemistry and cell biology. He was one of the leading researchers in the world in the areas of mitochondrial membrane biochemistry and energy transformation. His laboratory served as a Mecca for researchers around the globe and as the starting point for many scientific careers.

Lars Ernster was described as a warm and generous person who never hesitated to reach out a helping hand to friends, colleagues and students.

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