Britton Chance

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Britton Chance

Britton Chance (1965).jpg
Britton Chance (Ron Kroon, 1965)
Born(1913-07-24)July 24, 1913
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
DiedNovember 16, 2010(2010-11-16) (aged 97)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
NationalityUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania (B.A) (1935)
University of Pennsylvania (M.A.) (1936)
University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D) (1940)
Cambridge University (Ph.D) (1942)
Known forEnzyme kinetics
Optical imaging
Spouse(s)Jane Earle Lindenmayer
(m. after 1938, unknown)
Lilian Streeter Lucas Chance
(m. after 1956, unknown)
Shoko Nioka
(m. after 2010, died)
ChildrenEleanor Chance
Britton Chance Jr.
Margaret Chance
Lilian Chance
Benjamin Chance
Samuel Chance
Jan Chance
Ann Lucas Chance
Gerald B. Lucas Chance
A. Brooke Lucas Chance
William C. Lucas Chance
AwardsMember NAS (1952)
National Medal of Science (1974)
FRS (1981)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Pennsylvania USA, NCKU Taiwan
Medal record
Men's sailing
Representing the  United States
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1952 Helsinki 5.5 metre class
World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1962 Poole 5.5 metre class

Britton Chance ForMemRS (July 24, 1913 – November 16, 2010) was the Eldridge Reeves Johnson University Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Biophysics, as well as Professor Emeritus of Physical Chemistry and Radiological Physics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

At the 1952 Summer Olympics, Chance won a gold medal in sailing.

Early life and education[edit]

Chance was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He received a B.A. (1935), M.A. (1936), and Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry (1940) at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall.

Chance earned a second Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 1942 in Biology/Physiology.


During World War II, Chance worked for the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which was working on the development of radar. In 1952, he received his D.Sc. from Cambridge.

His research interests were diverse. He was promoted as the professor of biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and appointed the second director of the Johnson Foundation, a position he held until 1983. He was then appointed E. R. Johnson Professor of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry (later renamed as Biochemistry and Biophysics) in 1964 and University Professor in 1977.

In his early career, he was mainly working on enzyme structure and function. He had invented the now standard stopped-flow device to measure the existence of the enzyme-substrate complex in enzyme reaction.[1] He was a pioneer in the numerical simulations of biochemical reactions and metabolic pathways.[2][3]

In later years, while retaining his interest in those fields, he also focused on metabolic control phenomena in living tissues as studied by noninvasive technique such as phosphorus NMR and optical spectroscopy and fluorometry, including the use of infrared light to characterize the properties of various tissues and breast tumors.[4]

He was visiting distinguished chair professor at NCKU Taiwan from 2009 - 2010.[5]


He won a gold medal for the United States at the 1952 Summer Olympics in the 5½ Meter Class, alongside Edgar White and Sumner White.[6]


Chance married Jane Earle (1920–2014) on March 4, 1938. This couple divorced. They had 2 children: Eleanor and Britton. He married Lilian Streeter Lucas (1927–2013) on November 1956. They also divorced. They had 4 children: Margaret, Lilian, Benjamin and Samuel. Finally he married Shoko Nioka (born 1947) on February 2010. They had 2 children: Jan and Peter. Britton Chance also had stepchildren: Ann Lucas, Gerald B. Lucas, A. Brooke Lucas and William C. Lucas.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Chance joined the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1952. He received the National Medal of Science in 1974.[7] He was also previously elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Medical Sciences, in 1968, as well as a foreign member of the Royal Society (London) in 1981. In 1971 he was elected a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.[8] He died in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in November 2010.[9]


Academic awards[edit]

Awards named after Britton Chance[edit]

  • The International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue (ISOTT) established The Britton Chance Award in honor of Professor Chance's long-standing commitment, interest and contributions to the science and engineering aspects of oxygen transport to tissue and to the society. This award was first presented in 2004 during the annual conference of ISOTT in Bari, Italy.[11]
  • SPIE has established Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award, honoring his significant contribution to biomedical optics. The award will be presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the field of biomedical optics through the development of innovative, high-impact biophotonic technologies. In particular, the award will acknowledge pioneering contributions to biophotonic methods and devices that have significant promise to accelerate or have already facilitated new discoveries in biology or medicine, and will target achievements that span disciplines and may include elements of basic research, technology development, and clinical translation.[12]


  1. ^ Kresge N, Simoni RD, Hill RL. Britton Chance: Olympian and Developer of Stop-Flow Methods. J. Biol. Chem., Vol. 279, Issue 50, 10, December 10, 2004.
  2. ^ Chance, B., Greenstein, D. S., Higgins, J. & Yang, C. C. The mechanism of catalase action. II. Electric analog computer studies. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 37, 322–339 (1952).
  3. ^ Chance, Britton and Garfinkel, David and Higgins, Joseph and Hess, Benno. Metabolic control mechanisms. V. A solution for the equations representing interaction between glycolysis and respiration in ascites tumor cells. J. biol. Chem. 235, 2726-2439 (1960)
  4. ^ "Britton Chance Biography". Penn University Archives and Records Center. 2020.
  5. ^ "NCKU develops cancer detector for home use, Taipei Times, 2009".
  6. ^ "USA Olympic Sailing Alumni". US Sailing. 2020.
  7. ^ National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
  8. ^ "List of Members". Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  9. ^ Weber, Bruce (2010-11-28). "Britton Chance, Olympian and Biophysics Researcher, Dies at 97". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-09-05. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  10. ^ "NCKU "Inducts" Two World Class Scientists, 2008".
  11. ^ "ISOT Awards". Archived from the original on 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  12. ^ SPIE honors Britton Chance with new biomedical optics award

External links[edit]