Jerom Karle

Jerom Karle

American chemist, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1985
Date of Birth: 18.06.1918
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Jerome Karle
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Research and Contributions to Science
  4. Recognition and Impact
  5. Personal Life and Honors

Biography of Jerome Karle

Early Life and Education

Jerome Karle, an American chemist, was born in New York City to Louis Karle and Sadie (Kahn) Karfunkle. He grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1933. Karle then attended City College of New York, where he met Herbert A. Hauptman, a student from the Bronx. He primarily studied chemistry and biology in college and received his bachelor's degree in 1937. He continued his education at Harvard University, where he obtained a master's degree in biology a year later.

Research and Contributions to Science

After completing his education, Karle worked at the New York State Health Department for a year and a half. He then joined the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1943 for his dissertation on gas electronography. During World War II, Karle participated in the U.S. Navy's military project and later became a research assistant for the Manhattan Project, a scientific endeavor to develop the atomic bomb. After the war ended in 1946, Karle joined the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where he reunited with Hauptman.

In the 1950s, Karle and Hauptman collaborated on developing a direct method for deciphering three-dimensional molecular structures using X-ray crystallography. By analyzing the intensity of spots on a photographic film and the positions of these spots, Karle and Hauptman used mathematical formulas to calculate the phase of the X-ray beam, which indicated the deviation of each ray as it passed through a crystal. Based on these calculations, they created an electron density map of the crystal, revealing the precise arrangement of atoms and providing a picture of the molecular structure of the substance.

Recognition and Impact

X-ray crystallography had been used for analyzing the internal structure of large molecules for many years. However, Karle and Hauptman's direct method allowed for a more accurate and detailed understanding of molecular structures. In 1953, Karle and Hauptman published a paper on their groundbreaking work. Initially met with skepticism and hostility from many crystallographers, their complex and mathematically intensive approach seemed unrelated to chemistry. The main obstacle to the acceptance of their method was the lack of understanding among chemists regarding the mathematical aspect of the procedure. As a result, Karle and Hauptman did not receive support from other researchers in the field, and their direct method remained unused for 15 years.

However, Karle and Hauptman's contributions were eventually acknowledged. Their method gained recognition, enabling chemists to quickly investigate the molecular structure of biologically active compounds and create new compounds with similar properties. Thanks to the direct method, numerous pharmaceuticals have been developed, including synthetic analogs of steroid hormones for breast cancer treatment. The method has also been used to study enkephalins, natural pain-relieving substances produced by the brain, and develop new drugs based on them.

In 1985, Karle and Hauptman were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for their outstanding achievements in the development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures." Karle continued his research at the Naval Research Laboratory and occasionally lectured on mathematics and physics at the University of Maryland. He delivered lectures in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, Poland, Brazil, and Japan. Additionally, he led the Washington Crystal Colloquium, which takes place monthly at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory.

Personal Life and Honors

In 1942, Karle married chemist Isabella Lugoski. They had three daughters together. Throughout his career, Karle received numerous awards and honors, including the U.S. Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 1968, the Willard Gibbs Award from the American Chemical Society in 1970, and the A.L. Patterson Memorial Medal from the American Crystallographic Association in 1984. He was a member of the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Crystallographic Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Mathematical Society. In 1986, Karle was awarded an honorary degree from City College of New York.