Albert Lester Lehninger was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He enrolled at Wesleyan University in 1935 as an English major. Although his interests soon turned to chemistry and he went on to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Lehninger would later make use of his writing talents to author three classic textbooks: Biochemistry, The Mitochondrion, and Bioenergetics. Lehninger received his Ph.D. in 1942, doing his graduate research with Edgar J. Witzemann on the metabolism of acetoacetate and the oxidation of fatty acids by disrupted liver preparations. This work was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).
With the start of World War II, Lehninger joined the wartime Plasma Protein Fractionation Program. In 1945, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Chicago. During his 6 years in Chicago, Lehninger and Eugene P. Kennedy discovered that virtually all of the cell's oxidative activity occurred in the mitochondria. This discovery enabled him to predict that mitochondria had a complex internal structure. Later Lehninger and Morris E. Friedkin showed that electron transport from NADH to oxygen is an immediate and direct energy source for oxidative phosphorylation.
In 1952, Lehninger moved to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to become the DeLamar Professor and director of the Department of Physiological Chemistry. In 1978 he became university professor of medical sciences. Lehninger received many honors for his work, including the Paul Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry (American Chemical Society, 1948), the Remsen Award (American Chemical Society, 1969), the La Madonnina Award from the city of Milan, Italy, and election to the National Academy of Sciences (1956). He was president (1972) and secretary (1966– 1969) of the American Society of Biological Chemists and was also a member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry editorial board.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) The ATP requirement for fatty acid oxidation: The early work of Albert L. Lehninger. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (14)