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Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi is 123 Today!

Next time you’re enjoying some juicy citrus fruit or an assortment of leafy greens, think of Albert Szent-Györgyi. He uncovered the vitamin in these healthy foods that is known to aid your body’s ability to counteract free radicals and their harmful effects. We can thank Albert Szent-Györgyi for discovering vitamin C and its components. While that finding alone deserves a great deal of credit, Philosophical Library would like to share the many other accomplishments of psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi in honor of his 123rd birthday.

“A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.” – Albert Szent-Györgyi

Albert Szent-Györgyi was born on September 16, 1893 in Hungary with a family history that traced back to origins of nobility. Three generations of scientists preceded his birth, with his mother’s side of the family being heavily involved in music as well. In fact, his mother Jozefina auditioned as an opera singer for Gustav Mahler, mentor to Arnold Schoenberg. However, she was told that her singing voice was not up to par and that she should find herself a husband instead. Still, musical ability ran though the family bloodline as Albert had a talent for playing the piano and his brother grew to be a professional violinist.

At the age of eighteen, Albert attended Semmelweis University where he studied anatomy and began his research in his uncle’s lab. However, WWI would put a raincheck on his education as he joined the army in 1914 to serve as a medic. After two years of military enlistment, the horrors of the war became too much to bear. Albert devised the successful plan of shooting himself in the arm and showcasing the wound as an enemy attack. He was then released on medical leave and was able to complete his studies, earning his medical degree a year later. He married that same year. Though he left the war, he was not opposed to helping his fellow man. During WWII he helped several Jewish friends flee Germany and would later have a warrant issued for his arrest by Adolf Hitler for his discovered plan of traveling to Cairo to make negotiations with the Allies.

“Whatever man does he must do first in his mind.” – Albert Szent-Györgyi

Albert Szent-Györgyi had attended a variety of universities in the years that followed, ultimately staying at the University of Groningen where he focused on cellular respiration which led to a position at Cambridge University. He earned his PhD in 1927 for his research that led him to the isolation of an organic acid from the adrenal gland. He named it hexuronic acid, but would ultimately identify it as vitamin C and, after discovering its antiscorbutic properties, gave it the formal name of L-ascorbic acid. Albert went on to research cellular respiration and in 1937 won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the biological combustion process in reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid. He founded the Institute for Muscle Research years later after researching the biophysics of muscles. He would continue his research in this area well into the 1950s. He later focused his interests on researching cancer and eventually established the National Foundation for Cancer Research and came to believe there was a link between free radicals and cancer.

“Research is four things: brains with which to think, eyes with which to see, machines with which to measure and, fourth, money.” – Albert Szent-Györgyi

Albert Szent-Györgyi made monumental contributions to science and spent much of his life enveloped in the scientific community. Perhaps it isn’t surprising he would develop his own philosophies on the subject. He composed a book titled The Crazy Ape, addressing some scientific questions such as, “Why is it that most of the scientific research that is done to elevate human life serves in the end to destroy it?” Albert Szent-Györgyi suggests that the more technologically advanced we become, the more we regress socially and psychologically. He theorizes that today’s youth holds the key to the survival of the human race and calls to them to exercise their power to create a brighter future for the sake of mankind. To learn more about or purchase this title, please click here.

“Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.” – Albert Szent-Györgyi

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