Sir Hans Krebs Prize Lecture

Sir Hans Adolf Krebs was born on August 25 1900 in Hildesheim, Germany, to ear, nose and throat surgeon, Dr Georg Krebs, and his wife Alma Davidson.

Krebs studied Medicine at the Universities of Göttingen, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, and Berlin, before earning his M.D. degree at the University of Munich and spending an additional year studying chemistry at Berlin. He was then appointed assistant to leading biochemist, Professor Otto Warburg (1926 – 30), before returning to clinical work. In 1931, he secured an academic post at Freiburg University, gaining international recognition for the discovery of the urea cycle, considered a milestone in biochemistry.

In 1933, the National Socialist Government dismissed Krebs, as a Jew, from his post. He was invited to work at the University of Cambridge, later moving to Sheffield University where he pursued further ground-breaking research into the oxidation of sugars. This led to his second major discovery, the critic acid cycle, later known as the ‘Krebs Cycle’, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1953. This discovery provided us with an explanation of one of the most fundamental processes of life: the conversion of food into energy within a cell.

In 1945, the Medical Research Council set up a Unit for Research in Cell Metabolism at Sheffield, as head of which Krebs was given Professorial status. In 1954, Krebs came to Oxford University as Whitley Professor of Biochemistry and a fellow of Trinity College. The MRC Unit transferred with him, to the Metabolic Research Laboratory in the Radcliffe Infirmary. Although officially retiring in 1967, he continued to work, funded by the MRC and other grants, until his death in 1981 at the age of 80.

Krebs was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1947. The Royal Society awarded him its Royal Medal in 1954 and the Copley Medal in 1961. He was Knighted in 1958, and that same year he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Netherlands Society for Physics, Medical Science and Surgery.

He married Margaret Cicely Fieldhouse in 1938. They have two sons, Paul and John, and one daughter, Helen. His son, Lord John R Krebs FRS, became a renowned ornithologist, Oxford University Professor and Principal of Jesus College.
Type: Seminar Series
Timing: Annual
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Organising department: Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG)


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Editors: Nicole Harris, Peter Belk, Kiri Walden, Hannah Simm