Albert Claude

Albert Claude

Belgian-American biologist, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology or Medicine 1974.
Date of Birth: 23.08.1899
Country: Belgium

  1. Biography of Albert Claude
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Scientific Career
  4. Later Life and Legacy

Biography of Albert Claude

Albert Claude was a Belgian-American scientist and biochemist, best known for his groundbreaking research in cell biology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his discoveries related to the structural and functional organization of cells.

Early Life and Education

Albert Claude was born in a small village in the Belgian Ardennes with a population of around 800 people, mostly farmers. The only school in the village was located on the outskirts of a forest, about a kilometer away. Despite the challenging conditions, Claude excelled in his studies, which were taught by a single teacher in a small classroom with around 50 students of different ages.

After his mother passed away during the pre-war depression, his father decided to move to Athus, a prosperous steel-making region on the border of France and Luxembourg. Two years later, when Claude was only 13 years old, the family decided that he should return to Lonlier to take care of his paralyzed uncle. This responsibility not only included attending to his bedridden uncle but also taking care of all the household chores. His only contact with the outside world was an elderly doctor whom he had to call in emergencies.

Scientific Career

During World War I, Claude volunteered for the British intelligence service. After the war, he enrolled in a mining school and then attended the medical school at the University of Liège, where he received his doctorate in 1928. He then pursued further studies in Berlin during the winter of 1928-1929, first at the Cancer Institute and then at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Dahlem, in a laboratory led by Professor Albert Fischer. His doctoral thesis focused on the transplantation of tumor cells from mice to rats.

At that time, the etiology of cancer was not well understood. Some scientists believed that the disease was caused by bacteria, while others thought it had a viral nature. Claude developed a research program to study cancer and submitted it to the director of the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research in New York. He proposed to test the viral theory of cancer on a specific case of Rous sarcoma, a spindle cell sarcoma found in chickens. This disease was first described by Peyton Rous, an American pathologist and Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine in 1966.

Simon Flexner, the director of the Rockefeller Institute at the time, sent Claude an invitation, and with a scholarship, Claude moved to the United States to work at the Rockefeller Institute. His main task was to isolate the oncogenic factor responsible for the transformation of normal cells into tumor cells. To achieve this, Claude developed a method of cell fractionation using a centrifuge.

After several years of research, Claude successfully isolated the oncogenic factor from tumor cells. He injected the purified factor into a group of experimental animals and compared the frequency of tumor formation in this group with a control group. The results confirmed that the isolated factor induced the growth of cancer cells. Further studies on this oncogenic factor revealed that it consisted of ribonucleic acid (RNA), which was already known to be present in viruses. This provided the first indirect evidence of the link between viruses and the development of cancer. Claude also applied his developed cell fractionation method to study healthy cells. He successfully separated the cellular nucleus from the cytoplasm and isolated various organelles, including mitochondria, which he discovered were responsible for energy production.

In the early 1940s, Claude had the unique opportunity to study cells using an electron microscope. Three years later, he obtained the first photographs taken with an electron microscope. In 1946, he published an article on the microscopic anatomy of the cell.

Later Life and Legacy

After the war, Claude returned to Belgium in 1949 and became the director of the Jules Bordet Institute. In 1971, he retired and became the director of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Oncology at the Catholic University of Louvain.

In 1974, Albert Claude, along with Christian de Duve and George E. Palade, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell."

Albert Claude received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Louise Gross-Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in 1970. He was also a member of several prestigious scientific academies, including the French Academy of Medicine, the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Albert Claude's research revolutionized our understanding of cell biology and laid the foundation for further advancements in the field. His discoveries regarding the structure and function of cells have had a profound impact on various areas of biomedical research and continue to influence scientific inquiry today.