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Nobel Prize winning discoverer of Vitamin C honored in Hungary

03-23-2012 11:11 BJT

SZEGED, Hungary, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a Hungarian professor at Ferencz Jozsef University in Southern Hungary's Szeged, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1937.

He was the first to isolate vitamin C, after extracting it in large quantities from paprika, the spice grown on the sunny plains around Szeged.

In honor of his discovery, nine Nobel Prize winners on Thursday arrived at the campus, now called University of Szeged, joining over 1,000 scientists from around the world to commemorate Szent-Gyorgyi's life and works on the 75th anniversary of the award.

As part of a four-day program of lectures and workshops which has attracted over 1,100 academics and scientists from 30 countries, the Nobel laureates will outline their latest research as well as give talks to university and high school students.

"Szent-Gyorgyi was a great scientist, his breakthroughs were spectacular," said Peter C. Doherty, an Australian professor who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1996 for his work in the field of immunology.

"What he discovered was so central to biology that we all sat down and studied it years ago," he added.

As well as Doherty, the impressive roll call of Nobel laureates in Szeged includes Andrew V. Schally (Medicine, 1977), Robert Huber (Chemistry, 1988), Bert Sakkman (Medicine, 1991), Eric Wieschaus (Medicine, 1995), John E. Walker (Chemistry, 1997), Tim Hunt (Medicine, 2001), Aaron Ciechanover (Chemistry, 2004), and Ada E. Yonath (Chemistry, 2009).

Szent-Gyorgyi, who died in 1986 at the age of 93, remains an idol for scientists in Hungary, not just for his prestigious award.

While many academics, scientists and intellectuals were leaving Hungary in the inter-war period, Szent-Gyorgyi returned to the central European country in the early 1930s, in part in despair, after failing to find the precious vitamin in the Unites States. The professor would finally discover a rich source of vitamin C on his own doorstep, contained in the local spice of paprika.

"Despite working in many great schools and laboratories around the world, he decided to return to Hungary at a difficult time," explained Jozsef Palinkas, President of the Hungarian Academy of Science.

"Szent-Gyorgyi's success and world fame is proof that it's always worth investing in education and science," he added.

Hungary is still managing to turn out world class researchers. In a remarkable week for science in the central European country, mathematician Endre Szemeredi won the 2012 Abel Prize on Wednesday.

The award, often described as the Nobel Prize for mathematics, was given to Szemeredi for his research on discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science.

Partly to help inspire the next generation of academics and researchers, the nine laureates in town will chat with local students.

Standing in its busy atrium, Gabor Szabo, Rector of the University of Szeged, says the spirit of Szent-Gyorgyi fills the university. "This conference is about remembering the past, but it also looks into the future," he says.

"Who knows, perhaps a future Nobel Prize winner is among these young people," he added.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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