Friday, February 15, 2013

Discovery of chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae and cyanobacteria. The chloro portion of the word chlorophyll is from the Greek chloros, which means yellowish green, and phyllon, which means leaf. 

Chlorophyll was first isolated by Joseph Bienaimé Caventou (1795-1877) and Pierre Joseph Pelletier (1788-1842) in 1817.

At the time of their work, scientists know that green plants consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

In 1883, German physiologist Julius von Sachs showed that chlorophyll is not scattered all around a plant cell but is found in special structures called chloroplasts. He is given credit for proving that chlorophyll is involved in photosynthesis.

Later work shows that chlorophyll is an essential chemical for photosynthesis to occur.

Chlorophyll a and b were purified by German scientist, Richard Willstatter in 1906-1914. Subsequently they were separated chromatographically in 1933.

Willstatter received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1915 for his work in chlorophyll.

In 1965 a US scientist, Robert Burns Woodward, won a Noble Prize in Chemistry for figuring out the structure of the chlorophyll molecule.
Discovery of chlorophyll
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