Wald, George

born Nov. 18, 1906, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died April 12, 1997, Cambridge, Mass.

U.S. biochemist.

He taught at Harvard University from 1934–77. His outstanding contributions were on the importance of vitamin A, the mechanisms of the photochemical reactions in the rod cells that enable night vision, and the identification of the colour-sensitive pigments in the cone cells (see photoreception; retina). He shared the Nobel Prize in 1967 with Haldan Keffer Hartline and Ragnar Arthur Granit. He was a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War.

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▪ 1998

      American biologist and biochemist (b. Nov. 18, 1906, New York, N.Y.—d. April 12, 1997, Cambridge, Mass.), was a co-winner, with Haldan K. Hartline of the U.S. and Ragnar Granit of Sweden, of the 1967 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the research he carried out on the chemistry of vision. He was also outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons proliferation, and human rights abuses and was proud of the fact that his name had been included on Pres. Richard M. Nixon's "enemies list." Wald, who received a bachelor's degree (1927) in zoology from Washington Square College, New York University, and a doctorate (1932) from Columbia University, New York City, was conducting research in Berlin on a National Research Council fellowship (1932-33) when he identified the presence of Vitamin A in the pigments in the retina and thus its importance to the maintenance of vision. He continued his research in Heidelberg, Ger., and the Universities of Zürich, Switz., and Chicago before joining (1934) the faculty of Harvard University, where he spent the following 43 years, becoming professor emeritus in 1977. At Harvard, often in collaboration with Ruth Hubbard—whom he married in 1958—and Paul Brown, he made further discoveries regarding the means by which images are transmitted from the eye to the brain and the role of vitamin A in this process. Besides the Nobel, Wald's many awards included the Eli Lilly Award of the American Chemical Society (1939), the Lasker Award of the American Public Health Association (1953), and the Rumford Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1959).

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▪ American biochemist
born Nov. 18, 1906, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died April 12, 1997, Cambridge, Mass.

      American biochemist who received (with Haldan K. Hartline (Hartline, Haldan Keffer) of the United States and Ragnar Granit (Granit, Ragnar Arthur) of Sweden) the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1967 for his work on the chemistry of vision.

      While studying in Berlin as a National Research Council fellow (1932–33), Wald discovered that vitamin A is a vital ingredient of the pigments in the retina and, hence, important in maintaining vision. After further research in Heidelberg and at the universities of Zürich and Chicago, he joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1934.

      By the early 1950s Wald had succeeded in elucidating the chemical reactions involved in the vision process of the rods (receptors on the retina used for night vision). In the late 1950s, with Paul K. Brown, he identified the pigments in the retina that are sensitive to yellow-green light and red light and in the early 1960s the pigment sensitive to blue light. Wald and Brown also discovered the role of vitamin A in forming the three colour pigments and showed that colour blindness is caused simply by the absence of one of them. Wald became professor emeritus at Harvard in 1977.

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Universalium. 2010.

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