Chain was born in Berlin in 1906. In his youth, he aspired to become a pianist, but focused on the studies of chemistry and obtained his PH.D. degree at the age of 21. When the Nazi regime came to power, he emigrated to England, at first to Cambridge University and later on to Oxford University. There he joined Howard Florey’s department, where he engaged in the research of the chemical structure of penicillin.
In 1945, Ernst Chain, Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming, who was considered the first to discover penicillin, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect on various infectious diseases”.
Following biological tests made on penicillin, it was discovered that it effect a large variety of microbes without damaging the organism itself. It was further discovered that this substance is ten times more powerful in destroying microbes than sulfur drugs, which had been used until that time.
In 1941, following the success of experiments conducted on animals, and after Chain successfully improved the purification process of the substance, bringing it to a much higher purity grade, experiments on human beings began.
Chain and his colleagues made a crucial contribution to humanity in its struggle against infectious diseases. Their triumph can be measured by the saving of millions of lives.
Ernst Chain died in 1979.
Wolfgang Pauli was born in 1900 in Vienna, Austria. In 1921 he received a Ph.D. in physics in Munich and worked with the well known physicists Max Born, James Franck and Niels Bohr, who introduced him to the field of sub-atomic particles and Quantum Mechanics. Later he served as Professor of Physics in Hamburg and Switzerland. During the second world war he worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, then returned to Zurich, where he passed away in 1958.
Wolfgang Pauli was awarded the 1945 Nobel prize in Physics “For the discovery of the Exclusion Principle, also called the Pauli Principle.” The Exclusion Principle states that in a multi-electron atom there can be only one electron in each quantum state.
Pauli also discovered that the electron has an innate characteristic that was later called spin. He thereby increased the number of parameters that describe the electron’s state to four: energy, angular momentum, spin and the sum of the spin and the momentum. According to Pauli’s Exclusion Principle, this set of four numbers can characterize only one electron in the atom.
Pauli made an additional important contribution to the field of nuclear physics. In 1930 he postulated the existence of the neutrino, an elusive elementary particle that was empirically discovered only 25 years later.