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Walter Kauzmann

Walter Kauzmann

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Walter J. Kauzmann was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

 and professor emeritus of Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

. He was noted for his work in both physical chemistry
Physical chemistry
Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts...

 and biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

. His most important contribution was recognizing that the hydrophobic effect
Hydrophobic effect
The hydrophobic effect is the observed tendency of nonpolar substances to aggregate in aqueous solution and exclude water molecules. The name, literally meaning "water-fearing," describes the segregation and apparent repulsion between water and nonpolar substances...

 plays a key role in determining the three-dimensional structure of proteins
Protein structure
Proteins are an important class of biological macromolecules present in all organisms. Proteins are polymers of amino acids. Classified by their physical size, proteins are nanoparticles . Each protein polymer – also known as a polypeptide – consists of a sequence formed from 20 possible L-α-amino...

. He is also well known for an insight into the nature of supercooled liquids which is now known as Kauzmann's paradox. At Princeton, Kauzmann was the David B. Jones Professor Emeritus of Chemistry. He chaired the Department of Chemistry (1964 to 1968) and the Department of Biochemical Sciences (1980 to 1981).

He was born in Mount Vernon, New York
Mount Vernon, New York
Mount Vernon is a city in Westchester County, New York, United States. It lies on the border of the New York City borough of The Bronx.-Overview:...

 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York
New Rochelle, New York
New Rochelle is a city in Westchester County, New York, United States, in the southeastern portion of the state.The town was settled by refugee Huguenots in 1688 who were fleeing persecution in France...

. He was the son of the German-born Albert F. Kauzmann, who came to the United States in 1895, and Julia (Kahle) Kauzmann. Albert operated a gem-importing business in Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan is the southernmost part of the island of Manhattan, the main island and center of business and government of the City of New York...

 and would often bring his son to work on Saturday mornings. They would spend the afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

 or attend a matinee at the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

, nurturing Walter's lifelong love of science and music.

Kauzmann earned a B.A. degree in 1937 from Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, which he attended on a full scholarship. He started his doctoral work at Princeton University in organic chemistry
Organic chemistry
Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry involving the scientific study of the structure, properties, composition, reactions, and preparation of carbon-based compounds, hydrocarbons, and their derivatives...

, but switched to physical chemistry, earning a Ph.D. in 1940 under the direction of Henry Eyring
Henry Eyring
Henry Eyring was a Mexican-born American theoretical chemist whose primary contribution was in the study of chemical reaction rates and intermediates....

. Following his Ph.D., Kauzmann had a two-year postdoctoral appointment in Pittsburgh as a Westinghouse Research Fellow, in the laboratory led by Edward U. Condon. It was during this period that Kauzmann wrote his now classic paper on supercooled liquids and glasses that contained the Kauzmann paradox. At the end of this fellowship, with the U.S. fighting WWII, Kauzmann joined the U.S. government's National Defense Research Council laboratory in Bruceton, Pennsylvania
Bruceton, Pennsylvania
Bruceton is an unincorporated community in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is the home of an experimental mine of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, which originally opened in 1910. It is also the home of the Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center. The Pittsburgh and West...

, which was directed by George Kistiakowsky
George Kistiakowsky
George Bogdan Kistiakowsky was a Ukrainian-American chemistry professor at Harvard who participated in the Manhattan Project and later served as President Eisenhower's Science Advisor...

, and worked on chemical explosive
Chemical explosive
The vast majority of explosives are chemical explosives. Explosives usually have less potential energy than fuels, but their high rate of energy release produces a great blast pressure...


In 1944, Kauzmann was recruited into the top secret Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

 and he moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos is a townsite and census-designated place in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States, built upon four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau and the adjoining White Rock Canyon. The population of the CDP was 12,019 at the 2010 Census. The townsite or "the hill" is one part of town while...

. Eventually, Kauzmann was put in charge of producing the detonator for the Trinity test
Trinity test
Trinity was the code name of the first test of a nuclear weapon. This test was conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, at the new White Sands Proving Ground, which incorporated the Alamogordo Bombing...

, which was the first detonation of an atomic bomb, and of the (Fat Man
Fat Man
"Fat Man" is the codename for the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, by the United States on August 9, 1945. It was the second of the only two nuclear weapons to be used in warfare to date , and its detonation caused the third man-made nuclear explosion. The name also refers more...

) plutonium bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Kauzmann witnessed the Trinity test on July 16, 1945, and his memories were recorded in a newspaper article. Fifty years later, Kauzmann discussed why he worked on the atomic bomb:

"But there was another, even stronger reason that many of us felt justified our working as hard as we could on the bomb. It was felt that if it were possible to make atomic bombs, somewhere, someday, someone would figure out how to do it and some country would proceed to make them. If this were done after World War II was over, the bomb would very likely be made as a secret weapon. This would inevitably lead to World War III. Therefore, there were strong reasons for trying to make the bomb - and use it - before the end of World War II. The people of the world would then know the terrible thing that could be unleashed if there were a World War III. And the politicians could then be encouraged to try to do something about preventing World War III."

In 1946, Kauzmann returned to Princeton as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and remained on the Princeton Faculty throughout his long academic career. His work was centered in the area of biophysical chemistry
Biophysical chemistry
Biophysical chemistry is a relatively new branch of chemistry that covers a broad spectrum of research activities involving biological systems. The most common feature of the research in this subject is to seek explanation of the various phenomena in biological systems in terms of either the...

, particularly the studies of the structure and thermodynamics
Thermodynamics is a physical science that studies the effects on material bodies, and on radiation in regions of space, of transfer of heat and of work done on or by the bodies or radiation...

 of proteins. His insight that hydrophobic interactions play a key role in stabilizing protein structure was made before X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

 provided the first three-dimensional structures of proteins. Kauzmann's model, that proteins fold to bury hydrophobic residues and to expose hydrophilic
A hydrophile, from the Greek "water" and φιλια "love," is a molecule or other molecular entity that is attracted to, and tends to be dissolved by water. A hydrophilic molecule or portion of a molecule is one that has a tendency to interact with or be dissolved by, water and other polar substances...

 ones, has stood the test of time and is one of the key principles of de novo protein structure prediction
De novo protein structure prediction
In computational biology, de novo protein structure prediction is the task of estimating a protein's tertiary structure from its sequence alone. The problem is very difficult and has occupied leading scientists for decades. Research has focused in three areas: alternate lower-resolution...

. Kauzmann became an emeritus professor in 1982.

His first book, Quantum Chemistry, was published in 1957, followed by The Kinetic Theory of Gases (1966) and Thermodynamics and Statistics (1967). With David Eisenberg
David Eisenberg
David S. Eisenberg is an American biochemist best known for his contributions to structural and computational molecular biology...

, a former postdoctoral fellow of Kauzmann, he wrote The Structure and Properties of Water (1969), a book reissued in 2005 by Oxford University Press as part of its Classic Texts in the Physical Sciences series. The first three are textbooks for undergraduate physical chemistry, which Kauzmann taught at Princeton for many years. Kauzmann's pedagogy is discussed in an article by Bruce Alberts
Bruce Alberts
Bruce Michael Alberts is an American biochemist known for his work in science public policy and as an original author of the Molecular Biology of the Cell...


Kauzmann married Elizabeth Flagler Kauzmann, then a research assistant in the laboratory of Frank Johnson in the Princeton Biology Department, in April, 1951. Elizabeth died in 2004 after more than 50 years of marriage. They are survived by two sons, a daughter, and eight grandchildren. They summered on Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island is an island on the Atlantic coast of North America. It likely corresponds to the word Breton, the French demonym for Brittany....

, and eventually donated 40 acres (161,874.4 m²) of their property to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust..

Awards and honors

  • Guggenheim Fellowship
    Guggenheim Fellowship
    Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." Each year, the foundation makes...

    s (1957 and 1994)
  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

  • Elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences
    United States National Academy of Sciences
    The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

  • Inaugural Linderstrøm-Lang Prize for outstanding contributions in the areas of biochemistry or physiology (1966).
  • Honorary Ph.D. from The University of Stockholm (1992)
  • Stein and Moore Award of the Protein Society “for his seminal work on the physical chemistry of proteins.” (1993)
  • A special issue of Elsevier's 'Biophysical Chemistry' was published in September 2003, Volume 105, Issues 2-3, Pages 153-772, to celebrate Walter Kauzmann's 85th Birthday.
  • Princeton University established an annual Walter Kauzmann Lectureship in Chemistry. (2008)

External links

  • Princeton University's Walter Kauzmann Obituary.