ASBMB Past Presidents

1969 – Paul D. Boyer

(b. 1918)



Paul Delos Boyer, president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1969, was born in Provo, Utah. He received his B.S. in chemistry from Brigham Young University in 1939 and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1943. After graduating, he accepted a job with the Committee on Medical Research at Stanford University and investigated blood plasma proteins. This was during World War II, when the need for safe blood supplies was urgent. At the end of the project, Boyer accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. However, his job was put on hold for 1 year when he was drafted into the U.S. Navy, and he worked in a laboratory at the Navy Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1956, Boyer became a Hill Foundation Professor and moved to the medical school campus of the University of Minnesota. He remained there until 1963, when he moved his research group to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to join the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Eventually, he became director of the newly formed Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA and spearheaded the construction of the building and the organization of an interdepartmental Ph.D. program. Today he remains at UCLA as a professor emeritus.

Boyer is best known for his work on the synthesis of ATP, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997. His research led to three postulates for the binding mechanism for ATP synthesis: 1) that energy input was not used primarily to form ATP but to promote the binding of phosphate and mostly the release of tightly bound ATP; 2) that three identical catalytic sites on ATP synthase went through compulsory, sequential binding changes; and 3) that the binding changes of the catalytic subunits, circularly arranged on the periphery of the enzyme, were driven by the rotation of a smaller internal subunit. Boyer's research was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). Boyer served as editor (and associate editor) of the Annual Review of Biochemistry from 1963 to 1989. He was also the editor of the classic series, The Enzymes. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Boyer has received many awards, including the American Chemical Society's Award in Enzyme Chemistry (1955), the UCLA Medal (1998), and the American Society of Biological Chemists William C. Rose Award (1989). He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1970, and from 1959 to 1960 he served as chairman of the biochemistry section of the American Chemical Society.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2006) ATP synthesis and the binding change mechanism: The work of Paul D. Boyer. J. Biol. Chem. 281 (23)