Paul D. Boyer

Paul D. Boyer
Paul D. Boyer.jpg
Born (1918-07-31)July 31, 1918
Provo, Utah, U.S.
Died June 2, 2018(2018-06-02) (aged 99)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career

Paul Delos Boyer (July 31, 1918 – June 2, 2018) was an American biochemist, analytical chemist, and a professor of chemistry at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on the "enzymatic mechanism underlying the biosynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)" (ATP synthase) with John E. Walker, making Boyer the first Utah-born Nobel laureate; the remainder of the Prize in that year was awarded to Danish chemist Jens Christian Skou for his discovery of the Na+/K+-ATPase.[1]

Birth and education

Boyer was born in Provo, Utah. He grew up in a nonpracticing Mormon family. He attended Provo High School, where he was active in student government and the debating team. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Brigham Young University in 1939 and obtained a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Scholarship for graduate studies. Five days before leaving for Wisconsin, Paul married Lyda Whicker in 1939, and they remained married for nearly eighty years until his death in 2018, making him the longest-married Nobel laureate.[2] The Boyers had three children.

Though the Boyers connected with the Mormon community in Wisconsin, they considered themselves "on the wayward fringe" and doubted the doctrinal claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). After experimenting with Unitarianism, Boyer eventually became an atheist.[3] In 2003 he was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[4]

Academic career

After Boyer received his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1943, he spent years at Stanford University on a war-related research project dedicated to stabilization of serum albumin for transfusions. He began his independent research career at the University of Minnesota and introduced kinetic, isotopic, and chemical methods for investigating enzyme mechanisms. In 1955, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and worked with Professor Hugo Theorell on the mechanism of alcohol dehydrogenase. In 1956, he accepted a Hill Foundation Professorship and moved to the medical campus of the University of Minnesota. In 1959-1960, he served as Chairman of the Biochemistry Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and in 1969-1970 as President of the American Society of Biological Chemists.

Since 1963, he had been a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of California, Los Angeles. In 1965, he became the Founding Director of the Molecular Biology Institute and spearheaded the construction of the building and the organization of an interdepartmental Ph.D. program. This institutional service did not diminish the creativity and originality of his research program, which led to three postulates for the binding mechanism for ATP synthesis—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; that three identical catalytic sites went through compulsory, sequential binding changes; and 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.

Paul Boyer was Editor or Associate Editor of the Annual Review of Biochemistry from 1963-1989. He was Editor of the classic series, "The Enzymes". In 1981, he was Faculty Research Lecturer at UCLA. In that same year, he was awarded the prestigious Tolman Medal by the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society.


Boyer died on June 2, 2018 at the age of 99, less than two months shy of his 100th birthday at his Los Angeles home of respiratory failure.[5][6][7]


Awards and honors

Year Organization Award title,
1955 American Chemical Society Paul-Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry [8]
1955 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Guggenheim Fellowship,
study in Sweden
1968 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow
1970 National Academy of Sciences Member
1974 University of Stockholm Honorary Doctorate
1976 University of California, Los Angeles McCoy Award
1981 American Chemical Society
Southern California Section
Tolman Award [9]
1981 University of California, Los Angeles Faculty research lecturer
1989 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology William C. Rose Award [10]
1996 University of Minnesota Honorary Doctorate
1997 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Nobel Prize in Chemistry [1]
1998 University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Glenn T. Seaborg Medal [11]
1998 University of Wisconsin Honorary Doctorate
1998 American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award [12]


  • Boyer, Paul D (October 18, 2002), "A research journey with ATP synthase", Journal of Biological Chemistry, 277 (42): 39045–61, doi:10.1074/jbc.X200001200, PMID 12181328
  • Allchin, Douglas (2002), "To err and win a nobel prize: Paul Boyer, ATP synthase and the emergence of bioenergetics", Journal of the History of Biology, 35 (1), pp. 149–72, doi:10.1023/A:1014583721788, PMID 12068893
  • Lores Arnaiz, G R (1998), "[Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1997: Jean Skou, Paul Boyer and John Walker: the motor of life]", Medicina (B Aires), 58 (1), pp. 107–9, PMID 9674216
  • Boyer, P D (April 1995), "From human serum albumin to rotational catalysis by ATP synthase", FASEB J., 9 (7), pp. 559–61, doi:10.1096/fasebj.9.7.7737466, PMID 7737466