Oral history interview with Konrad E. Bloch

Oral history interview with Konrad E. Bloch

  • 1993-Mar-22
Photograph of Konrad Bloch
CHF Collections

The interview begins with Konrad E. Bloch describing his childhood in Neisse, Germany, and his undergraduate education at Technische Hochschule in Munich. During a research assistantship in Davos, Switzerland, Bloch had his first encounter with the cholesterol molecule. He also produced and published three papers that Columbia University later accepted as partial fulfillment for a Ph.D. in biochemistry, which he earned in 1938.

Bloch describes his teaching and research in biochemistry at Columbia and later at the University of Chicago, where he developed an interest in the mechanism of protein synthesis from amino acids. Throughout his career, Bloch's primary research interest was the biosynthesis of cholesterol. In 1954, he became Higgins Professor of Biochemistry at Harvard University and served as Chemistry Department Chairman for three years. He won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology with Feodor Lynen in 1964 for his work on cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. Shortly before his retirement, he was appointed Professor of Science at the Harvard School of Public Health. Bloch closes the interview with some comments on nutrition research, blondes in Venetian Renaissance Art, the difference between biochemistry, molecular biology, and the Human Genome Project.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 65 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.

Physical location

Oral history number 0109

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • January 21, 1912
  • Neisse, Germany
  • October 15, 2000
  • Burlington, Massachusetts, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1934 Technische Universität München Chemical Engineering
1938 Columbia University PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Schweizerisches Höhenforschung Institute

  • 1934 to 1935 Research Assistant

Columbia University

  • 1939 to 1946 Instructor, Department of Biochemistry

University of Chicago

  • 1946 to 1950 Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry
  • 1950 to 1954 Professor, Department of Biochemistry

Harvard University

  • 1954 to 1982 Higgins Professor Biochemistry
  • 1968 to 1971 Chairman, Department of Chemistry
  • 1979 to 1984 Professor of Science, School of Public Health
  • 1982 to 1994 Higgins Professor of Biochemistry, Emeritus

University of Oxford

  • 1982 Newton-Abraham Visiting Professor


Year(s) Award
1953 Guggenheim Fellow, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich, Switzerland
1956 Member, National Academy of Sciences
1958 Medal, Société de Chemie Biologique
1961 Guggenheim Fellow, Imperial College, London, England
1964 Fritzsche Award, American Chemical Society
1964 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology
1964 Distinguished Service Award, University of Chicago School of Medicine
1965 Centennial Science Award, University of Notre Dame
1965 Cardano Medal, Lombardy Academy of Sciences
1966 Honorary Member, Lombardy Academy of Sciences
1966 Honorary Degree, University of Uruguay
1966 Honorary Degree, University of Brazil
1966 Honorary Degree, University of Nancy
1966 Member, American Philosophical Society
1967 Honorary Degree, Columbia University
1968 William Lloyd Evans Award, Ohio State University
1968 Honorary Degree, Technische Hochschule, Muenchen
1968 Guggenheim Fellow, Harvard University
1970 Honorary Degree, Brandeis University
1971 Honorary Member, Phi Lambda Upsilon
1976 Honorary Member, Japanese Biochemical Society
1976 Corresponding Member, Bavarian Academy of Sciences
1976 Honorary Degree, Hokkaido University
1977 Foreign Member, Accademia Pattaviana
1985 Foreign Member, Royal Society, London
1987 Award for Excellence, Columbia University
1988 National Medal of Science

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PDF — 2.9 MB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

10 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads