William John Young

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(Harden, Young and Thompson,1911)

William John Young (26 January 1878 – 14 May 1942) was an English biochemist.

Beginnings and Education[edit]

William John Young was born on 26 January 1878 in Withington, Manchester, England. He received a B.Sc. in 1898 and a M.Sc. in 1902 at Owen College, Manchester. Young began his research early in his career, and was granted the Levinstein and Dalton research exhibitions for 1899-1900 and 1900-1901 respectively.[1]

Yeast Fermentation Experiment[edit]

From 1900-1912 Young held the title of Assistant Biochemist at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London. Here, he worked collaboratively with Sir Arthur Harden on the mechanism of fermenting enzymes in yeast extract, work extending the earlier work of Eduard Buchner on cell-free alcoholic fermentation In 1906 they found that heat-stable substances additional to the heat-sensitive enzyme were necessary, by observing that the rate of alcoholic fermentation in unboiled yeast extracts increased when boiled yeast extract was added.[2] They soon discovered that salts of orthophosphoric acid stimulate that fermentation.[1] They developed a superior apparatus to collect and measure the gases that evolved during alcohol fermentation. This model employed a volumetric measurement of CO2, while former apparatuses used a gravimetric measurement.[3]

Using this new apparatus, Arthur Harden and Young inadvertently discovered the sugar diphosphate in the system.[4] That compound, which was coined the Harden-Young ester, was later shown to be fructose-1,6-diphosphate.[5] This compound was the first chemical intermediate discovered in fermentation. Its discovery led to the ultimate description of fermentation in terms of molecular intermediates. Harden’s and Young’s general findings can be summarized by the following equations:[3]

  1. 2C6H12O6 + 2Na2HPO4 = C6H10O4(PO4Na2)+2H2O + CO2 +2C2H6O;
  2. C6H10O4(PO4Na2)2 + H2O = C6H12O6 + 2Na2HPO4

In 1910, Young received his D.Sc. from the University of London.

Research in Australia[edit]

In 1913, Young and his family migrated to Queensland, Australia, where he was appointed Biochemist at the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, Townsville. In 1920, Young became a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1924 and Foundation Professor in 1938 . During these years, his interests were extended to applied biochemistry of food preservation. He was a forerunner in refrigeration techniques, and some of his methods are still being used with bananas.[3]

While in Australia, Young conducted several experiments related to the biochemistry of blood. In 1915, he performed a set of experiments to compare the effects of salvarsan and neosalvarsan to the behavior of atoxyl in animal blood.[6] He found that they were very similar to one another, and all led to a form of arsenic associated with blood proteins. This arsenic was found to be localized to the plasma and the red blood cells in the blood.

In response to previous studies of the anti-tryptic action of blood serum, Young conducted a series of experiments in 1918 in which he investigated the possible mechanism of this anti-tryptic effect of the blood sera of various animals. His research led him to the tentative conclusion that trypsin was not a protein (Young 1915, 1918). In later research this conclusion was refuted. He did, however, provide valuable improvements to the techniques utilized in related research.

In 1920, Young embarked on an investigation of the pigment melanin found in the skin and hair of animals and humans (Young 1914, 1921) . He found that it could be extracted by treatment with dilute alkali. This research provided him insight into the structure of melanin and its role in hair and skin.[7]



  1. ^ a b "Young, William John (1878 - 1942) Biographical Entry - Australian Dictionary of Biography Online". Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  2. ^ Harden, A.; Young, W. J. (12 April 1906). "The Alcoholic Ferment of Yeast-Juice". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing Papers of a Biological Character. 77 (519): 405–420. doi:10.1098/rspb.1906.0029. JSTOR 80032. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Alcoholic Ferment of Yeast-Juice. Part V.-The Function of Phosphates in Alcoholic Fermentation". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing Papers of a Biological Character. 82 (556): 321–330. 10 May 1910. JSTOR 80249. 
  4. ^ Harden and Young, 1913
  5. ^ Nelson and Cox, 2007
  6. ^ Young 1918
  7. ^ "The University of Melbourne - Archives - UMA Image Catalogue - Search". Retrieved 2008-06-30.