Born in Budapest, he obtained his diploma in medicine in 1917. For more than 10 years he toured the world, and at Cambridge he obtained his Ph. D. in chemistry.
After returning home he took up a professorial position and headed a department at the University of Szeged, where shortly he set up a biological research laboratory.
During experiments on cell respiration he succeeded in isolating a reducing agent from plants such as oranges and lemons, which blocked the effect of the peroxidase-type enzymes. This substance, similar to hezuronic acid, he named ascorbic acid (due to its efficacy in eliminating scurvy), or vitamin C. The paprika produced around Szeged was an ample source for its production.
In 1937 he received the Nobel Prize in physiology and medical science for "discoveries in the area of biological combustion processes, particularly in regard to vitamin C, and the fumaric acid catalysis".
After the war he actively joined in Hungarian scientific life and the reorganization of the Academy, but in 1947 fearing political terror he went abroad.
He lived in America for almost 40 years. He conducted research mainly on muscles and cell regulation problems; furthermore, his cancer research activities were significant.
He wrote more than 200 studies and many books.
Both his scientific and human activities reflected his optimism for life and hatred for destruction.
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