Martin Karplus

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Martin Karplus
Nobel Prize 22 2013.jpg
Nobel Prize Laureate Martin Karplus during press conference in Stockholm, December 2013
Born (1930-03-15) March 15, 1930 (age 85)
Vienna, Austria[1]
Citizenship American, Austrian[1]
Institutions Harvard University,
Université de Strasbourg,[1]
Columbia University,
University of Illinois
Alma mater California Institute of Technology[1]
Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Linus Pauling[1]
Notable awards Irving Langmuir Award (1987)
Linus Pauling Award (2004)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2013)[1]

Martin Karplus (born March 15, 1930) is an Austrian-born American theoretical chemist. He is the Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, emeritus at Harvard University. He is also Director of the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory, a joint laboratory between the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Strasbourg, France.

Karplus received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[1][2]


Karplus was a child when his family fled from the Nazi-occupation in Austria a few days after the Anschluss in March 1938, spending several months in Zürich, Switzerland and La Baule, France before immigrating to the United States.[3] Prior to their immigration to the United States, the family was known for being "an intellectual and successful secular Jewish family" in Vienna.[4] His grandfather, Johann Paul Karplus (1866-1936) was a highly acclaimed professor of psychiatry at the University of Vienna.[5] He is nephew, by marriage, of the famous sociologist, philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno and grandnephew of the physicist Robert von Lieben. His brother, Robert Karplus, was an internationally recognized physicist and educator at University of California, Berkeley.


After earning a BA degree from Harvard College in 1950, Karplus pursued graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology. He completed his Ph.D. in 1953 under Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling. According to Pauling, Karplus "was [his] most brilliant student.".[6] He was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University (1953–55) where he worked with Charles Coulson. Karplus taught at the University of Illinois and then Columbia University(1960–67) before moving to Harvard in 1967. He established a research group in Strasbourg, France, after two sabbatical visits between 1992 and 1995 in the NMR laboratory of Jean-François Lefèvre at Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg.


Karplus has contributed to many fields in physical chemistry, including chemical dynamics, quantum chemistry, and most notably, molecular dynamics simulations of biological macromolecules. He has also been influential in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, particularly to the understanding of nuclear spin-spin coupling and electron spin resonance spectroscopy. The Karplus equation describing the correlation between coupling constants and dihedral angles in protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is named after him.

Current research[edit]

His current research is concerned primarily with the properties of molecules of biological interest. His group originated and currently coordinates the development of the CHARMM program for molecular dynamics simulations. He is a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. He has supervised over 200 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in his long career (since 1955) in the University of Illinois, Columbia University (1960 - 1967), and Harvard University. He is a recipient of the Christian B. Anfinsen Award, given in 2001.


  • CL Brooks III, M Karplus, BM Pettitt. Proteins: A Theoretical Perspective of Dynamics, Structure and Thermodynamics, Volume LXXI, in: Advances in Chemical Physics, John Wiley & Sons, New York 1988.
  • Martin Karplus and Richard N. Porter. Atoms and Molecules: An Introduction for Students of Physical Chemistry. W. A. Benjamin, New York 1970.

Notable Students and Postdoctoral Fellows (in Alphabetical Order)[edit]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013" (Press release). Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. October 9, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ Chang, Kenneth (October 9, 2013). "3 Researchers Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry". New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ Karplus, M (2006). "Spinach on the ceiling: a theoretical chemist's return to biology.". Annual review of biophysics and biomolecular structure 35: 1–47. doi:10.1146/annurev.biophys.33.110502.133350. PMID 16689626. 
  4. ^ Fuller, Robert (2002). A Love of Discovery: Science Education - The Second Career of Robert Karplus. New York: Kluwer Academic. p. 293. ISBN 0-306-46687-2. 
  5. ^ Gaugusch, Georg (2011). Wer einmal war: Das jüdische Großbürgertum Wiens 1800-1938 A-K. Wien: Amalthea Signum. pp. 1358–1367. ISBN 978-3850027502. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]