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Melvin Calvin

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Melvin Calvin

Born Melvin Ellis Calvin
April 8, 1911
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Died January 8, 1997(1997-01-08) (aged 85)
Berkeley, California, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Chemistry · Biology
Institutions University of Manchester
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley Radiation Laboratory
Science Advisory Committee
Alma mater Michigan College of Mining and Technology
University of Minnesota
Academic advisors Michael Polanyi
Known for Calvin cycle
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1961)
Davy Medal (1964)
Priestley Medal (1978)
AIC Gold Medal (1979)
National Medal of Science (1989)[1]

Melvin Ellis Calvin (April 8, 1911 – January 8, 1997)[2] was an American chemist. He was famous for discovering the Calvin cycle (with Andrew Benson and James Bassham). He was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work. Calvin spent most of his five-decade career at the University of California, Berkeley.

Using the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin and colleagues mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis. It starts with its its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide, and ends with its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds.[3][4]

They showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacture of organic compounds. Calvin was the sole recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He wrote an autobiography three decades later titled Following the trail of light: a scientific odyssey.[5]

During the 1950s he was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research. In 1963 he was given the additional title of Professor of Molecular Biology.


  1. National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
  2. Seaborg G.T; Benson A.A. 2008. Melvin Calvin. 8 April 1911 -- 8 January 1997. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 54: 59. [1]
  3. Calvin, M (1956). "The photosynthetic cycle.". Bull. Soc. Chim. Biol. 38 (11): pp. 1233–44. Dec 7, 1956. PMID 13383309 .
  4. Barker, S.A.; Bassham, J.A.; Calvin, M; Quarck, U.C. (1956). "Intermediates in the photosynthetic cycle". Biochim. Biophys. Acta 21 (2): pp. 376–7. doi:10.1016/0006-3002(56)90022-1 . PMID 13363921 .
  5. Calvin, Melvin (1992). Following the trail of light: a scientific odyssey.. Wiley VCH. ISBN 0-8412-1828-5 .
This person won a Nobel Prize