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Svedberg, Theodor

molecules biological mass proteins

[ svay berg] (1884–1971) Swedish physical chemist: devised the ultracentrifuge.

Svedberg entered Uppsala in 1904, hoping to apply novel methods to biological problems; he stayed in the university for life and had fair success in his objective. His main work was in developing the ultracentrifuge, in which a centrifugal force much above gravitational force is produced, which is powerful enough to ‘pull down’ large molecules such as proteins. Svedberg’s ultracentrifuges ran at up to 140 000 rpm, giving fields up to 900 000 g , and could be used to purify proteins (and other colloids) and to confirm view that these were giant molecules, of high relative molecular mass (eg Svedberg found relative molecular mass = 68 000 for haemoglobin). Since his work ultracentrifuges have been in routine use for separating large biological molecules. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1926. The unit of sedimentation velocity, the svedberg (S), is named after him.

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