Alexander R. Todd

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Baron Todd
Alexander Todd Nobel.jpg
Born Alexander Robertus Todd
(1907-10-02)2 October 1907
Cathcart, Glasgow
Died 10 January 1997(1997-01-10) (aged 89)
Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Glasgow
University of Frankfurt am Main
University of Oxford
Awards Davy Medal (1949)
Royal Medal (1955)
Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1957)
Paul Karrer Gold Medal (1963)
Copley Medal (1970)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (1978)
Scientific career
Fields Chemistry, Biochemistry
Institutions Lister Institute
University of Edinburgh
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Cambridge
Christ's College, Cambridge
University of Strathclyde
Hatfield Polytechnic
Doctoral advisor Walter Borsche, Sir Robert Robinson
Doctoral students Ted Corbett

Alexander Robertus Todd, Baron Todd OM PRS FRSE[1] (2 October 1907 – 10 January 1997) was a British biochemist whose research on the structure and synthesis of nucleotides, nucleosides, and nucleotide coenzymes gained him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Early life and education

Todd was born near Glasgow, attended Allan Glen's School and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc in 1928. He received a PhD (Dr.phil.nat.) from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main in 1931 for his thesis on the chemistry of the bile acids.

Todd was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851,[2] and, after studying at Oriel College, Oxford, he gained another doctorate in 1933.


After graduating from the University of Oxford, Todd held posts with the Lister Institute, the University of Edinburgh (staff, 1934–1936) and the University of London, where he was appointed Reader in Biochemistry.

In 1938, Alexander Todd spent six months as a visiting professor at California Institute of Technology, eventually declining an offer of faculty position.[3][4] Todd became the Sir Samuel Hall Chair of Chemistry and Director of the Chemical Laboratories of the University of Manchester in 1938, where he began working on nucleosides, compounds that form the structural units of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).

In 1944, he was appointed to the 1702 Chair of Chemistry in the University of Cambridge, which he held until his retirement in 1971.[5] In 1949, he synthesised adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). Todd served as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago in 1948 and University of Sydney in 1950.[3][6][7]

In 1955, he helped elucidate the structure of vitamin B12, although the final formula and definite structure was determined by Dorothy Hodgkin and her team, and later worked on the structure and synthesis of vitamin B1 and vitamin E, the anthocyanins (the pigments of flowers and fruits) from insects (aphids, beetles) and studied alkaloids found in hashish and marijuana. He served as chairman of the Government of the United Kingdom's advisory committee on scientific policy from 1952 to 1964.

He was elected a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge in 1944 and was Master from 1963 to 1978. He became Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde in 1975, and a visiting professor at Hatfield Polytechnic (1978–1986). Among his many honours, including over 40 honorary degrees, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1942, was President of the Royal Society from 1975 to 1980 and became a member of the Order of Merit in 1977.[8]

In 1981, Todd became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[9]


Todd died in 1997 after a heart attack.

Personal life

In 1937 Lord Todd married Alison Sarah, daughter of Nobel Prize winner Sir Henry Dale, who like Todd served as President of the Royal Society. They had a son, Alexander Henry, and two daughters, Helen Jean and Hilary Alison. Alison predeceased Lord Todd in 1987.


Todd was honored as a Nieuwland Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame in 1948,[10] an Arthur D. Little Visiting Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1954,[3][11] and a Hitchcock Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, in 1957.[3][12]

He was knighted as Sir Alexander Todd in 1954[13] and was created a Life Peer as Baron Todd of Trumpington in the County of Cambridge on 16 April 1962.[14]

He is commemorated by a blue plaque erected by the Royal Society of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.


  • Todd, Alexander (1983), A time to remember: the autobiography of a chemist, Cambridge University Press 

See also


  1. ^ Brown, D. M.; Kornberg, H. (2000). "Alexander Robertus Todd, O.M., Baron Todd of Trumpington. 2 October 1907 – 10 January 1997: Elected F.R.S. 1942". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 46: 515. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1999.0099. 
  2. ^ 1851 Royal Commission Archives
  3. ^ a b c d "Lord Todd - Biographical". Retrieved 2018-01-27. 
  4. ^ Kay, Lily E. (1992-12-03). The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190281618. 
  5. ^ Archer, Mary D.; Haley, Christopher D. (2005), The 1702 chair of chemistry at Cambridge: transformation and change, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-82873-2 , Chapter 9: Alexander Todd, p 233
  6. ^ "Our Work with Cyanogenic Plants". 
  7. ^ "ChemNEWS (FACULTY OF SCIENCE)" (PDF). The University of Sydney. 
  8. ^ "No. 47362". The London Gazette. 28 October 1977. p. 13613. 
  9. ^ "About Us". World Cultural Council. Retrieved November 8, 2016. 
  10. ^ Todd, Alexander R (1949). Vitamins, coenzymes and nucleotides; a series of lectures presented at the University of Notre Dame on October 22, 25 and 27, 1948. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame. 
  11. ^ "Postdoc T.Y. Shen Honors his Wife | MIT Department of Chemistry". Retrieved 2018-01-27. 
  12. ^ "Nucleotide Co-Enzymes: A Study in Synthesis | Berkeley Graduate Lectures". Retrieved 2018-01-27. 
  13. ^ "No. 40227". The London Gazette. 9 July 1954. p. 4026. 
  14. ^ "No. 42651". The London Gazette. 17 April 1962. p. 3185. 


External links

  • Nobel Foundation biography
  • Synthesis in the Study of Nucleotides, Todd's Nobel lecture
  • Interviews with Nobel Prize winning scientists: Lord Alexander Todd, British Broadcasting Corporation, c. 1985 . Video of an interviewed with Lewis Wolpert. Duration 37 minutes.
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Pope
Professor of Organic Chemistry, Cambridge University
Succeeded by
Ralph Raphael
Preceded by
Brian Downs
Master of Christ's College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Sir John Plumb
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