- Christian de Duve
de Duve, Christian Rene Born October 2, 1917
Thames Ditton, Surrey, Great Britain
Institutions Catholic University of Leuven
Alma mater Onze-Lieve-Vrouwecollege
Catholic University of Leuven
Known for Structure and function of organelles Notable awards Francqui Prize for Biological and Medical Sciences 1960
Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 1974
Christian René, viscount de Duve (born 2 October 1917) is a Nobel Prize-winning cytologist and biochemist. De Duve was born in Thames Ditton, Surrey, Great Britain, as a son of Belgian refugees. They returned to Belgium in 1920. De Duve was educated by the Jesuits at Onze-Lieve-Vrouwecollege in Antwerp, before studying at the Catholic University of Leuven, where he became a professor in 1947. He specialized in subcellular biochemistry and cell biology and discovered peroxisomes and lysosomes, cell organelles.
In 1962 de Duve joined the faculty of what is now Rockefeller University in New York City, dividing his time between New York and Leuven. He took emeritus status at Université catholique de Louvain in 1985 and at Rockefeller in 1988, though he continued to conduct research.
Amongst other subjects, de Duve studied the distribution of enzymes in rat liver cells using rate-zonal centrifugation. De Duve's work on cell fractionation provided an insight into the function of cell structures.
In 1960, de Duve was awarded the Francqui Prize for Biological and Medical Sciences. He was awarded the shared Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1974, together with Albert Claude and George E. Palade, for describing the structure and function of organelles (lysosomes and peroxisomes) in biological cells. His later years have been mostly devoted to origin of life studies, which he admits is still a speculative field (see thioester).
His work has contributed to the emerging consensus that the endosymbiotic theory is correct; this idea proposes that mitochondria, chloroplasts, and perhaps other organelles of eukaryotic cells originated as prokaryote endosymbionts, which came to live inside eukaryotic cells.
De Duve proposes that peroxisomes may have been the first endosymbionts, which allowed cells to withstand the growing amounts of free molecular oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Since peroxisomes have no DNA of their own, this proposal has much less evidence than the similar claims for mitochondria and chloroplasts.
- A Guided Tour of the Living Cell (1984) ISBN 0-7167-5002-3
- Blueprint for a Cell: the nature and origin of life (1991) ISBN 0-89278-410-5
- Vital Dust: life as a cosmic imperative (1996) ISBN 0-465-09045-1
- Life Evolving: molecules, mind, and meaning (2002) ISBN 0-19-515605-6
- Singularities: landmarks on the pathways of life (2005) ISBN 978-0-521-84195-5
- La cellule vivante, une visite guidée, Pour la Science, 1987 ISBN 978-2902918522
- Construire une cellule, Dunod, 1990 ISBN 978-2729601812
- Poussière de vie, Fayard, 1995 ISBN 978-2213595603
- Oberflächen-Lexikon, Drw Verlag, 2003 ISBN 978-3871813382
- À l’écoute du vivant, éditions Odile Jacob, Paris, 2002 ISBN 2738111661.
- Singularités: Jalons sur les chemins de la vie, éditions Odile Jacob, 2005 ISBN 978-2738116215
- Science et quête de sens, Presses de la Renaissance, 2005 ISBN 978-2750901257
- Génétique du péché originel. Le poids du passé sur l’avenir de la vie, éditions Odile Jacob, 2009 ISBN 978-2738122186
- Christian de Duve tells his life story on Web of Stories
- Free to view video interview with Christian de Duve provided by the Vega Science Trust.
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