Vincent du Vigneaud was born in Chicago, Illinois, and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his B.S. in organic chemistry in 1918 and his M.S. in 1924. He then joined John R. Murlin at the University of Rochester to do graduate work and demonstrated that cystine was the source of the disulfide in insulin. He finished his degree in 1927 and began postdoctoral studies on insulin at Johns Hopkins University with John J. Abel, where he showed that insulin was a protein, thereby establishing that proteins could be hormones. He then carried out further postdoctoral studies at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Dresden, Germany, with Max Bergmann. Upon returning to the United States in 1929, du Vigneaud joined the physiological chemistry faculty at the University of Illinois. In 1932 he accepted an offer from the George Washington University School of Medicine to serve as a full professor in biochemistry and chairman of the department. In 1938 he was made professor and head of the Biochemistry Department at Cornell Medical College in New York City. He remained there until 1967, when he joined the Chemistry Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
du Vigneaud's early research set the course for his subsequent work on sulfur-containing compounds. In 1940, he and his collaborators discovered that both vitamin H and coenzyme R were identical to the vitamin biotin. A year later he reported the structure of biotin. In 1946, du Vigneaud and his colleagues announced their production of a synthetic penicillin (penicillin G). du Vigneaud's laboratory also isolated and synthesized oxytocin and vasopressin. This work was featured in a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).
Among du Vigneaud's many honors were the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1955, the Hildebrand Award of the Washington Chemical Society (1936), the Lasker Award of the American Public Health Association (1948), and the Passano Foundation Award (1955). He served as president of the Harvey Society and of the American Society of Biological Chemists (1951) and as chair (president) of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the New York Academy of the Arts and Sciences.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., Hill, R. L., and Vaughan, M. (2004) A trail of research in sulfur chemistry and metabolism: the work of Vincent du Vigneaud. J. Biol. Chem. 279 (51)