William Howard Stein was an American biochemist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1972 with Stanford Moore and Christian B. Anfinsen, two other American biochemists. His award-winning contribution to research focused on the structure of ribonuclease (RNase), as well as the relationship between the chemical structure of the ribonuclease molecule and its catalytic activity. He worked with Moore to create new chromatographic processes for analyzing amino acids and short peptides obtained by protein hydrolysis. They created the first automatic amino-acid analyzer, which greatly benefited in the study of amino acid sequences in proteins. They also utilized the new technology to analyze the whole chemical structure of the pancreatic enzyme ribonuclease for the first time. Stein spent his whole professional life at Rockefeller, first as a Professor of Biochemistry at the ‘Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research,’ then as a Professor of Biochemistry at ‘Rockefeller University.’ He was also a visiting lecturer at a number of universities, including Harvard University and the University of Chicago. Along with fellow biochemist Stanford Moore, he received the American Chemical Society Award in Chromatography and Electrophoresis in 1964, the Carlsberg Research Center’s ‘Linderstrom-Lang Medal’ in 1972, and the American Chemical Society’s ‘Richards Medal’ in 1972.
Childhood and Adolescence
He was born in a Jewish household on June 25, 1911, in New York City, as the second of three children to Fred Michael Stein and his wife Beatrice Cecilla (Borg).
His father was a businessman who retired early to devote his time to healthcare issues. His mother was an outspoken advocate for children’s rights. His older brother, Fred Micheal Stein, Jr., became a health advocate, while his younger sister, Cecilia Borg Stein Cullman, followed in her mother’s footsteps as a child rights campaigner.
From 1926 to 1927, he studied at Columbia University’s ‘Lincoln School of Teachers College,’ a private co-educational university laboratory school in New York City. The school’s theories and practices were thought to be among the most progressive at the time.
Following that, he enrolled in ‘Phillips Exeter Academy,’ a co-educational independent school in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he remained until 1929. His parents encouraged him to pursue a career in fundamental research or medicine.
He then enrolled at ‘Harvard University,’ where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1933.
He graduated from ‘Columbia University’ with a master’s degree in chemistry in 1935.
In 1938, he received his PhD from New York City’s ‘Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons,’ with a thesis on the amino acid analysis of elastin, a highly elastic protein.
A Career of William Howard Stein
In 1938, he was hired as a researcher at the ‘Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research,’ where he worked alongside renowned Jewish-German biochemist Max Bergmann. Moore, Klaus Hofmann, Emil L. Smith, and Joseph S. Fruton, among others, had the opportunity to work with an extraordinary group of scholars. He did the majority of his substantial research work at the Rockefeller.
He and Moore were given the task of devising precise analytical methodologies for analyzing protein amino acid composition. When Moore was enlisted as a technical aid in the ‘National Defense Research Council’ in Washington in 1942, the ‘Second World War’ disrupted their work on proteins. Moreover, during the war, Bergmann’s entire research group was absorbed into the ‘Office of Scientific Research and Development.’
After Bergmann’s death in 1944, the laboratory was left without a director, but the research team continued to work.
After the war, Moore returned to the Rockefeller Institute after accepting an offer from then-Director Herbert Gasser, who gave Stein and Moore the freedom and space to pursue their research interests.
He was appointed Professor of Biochemistry at the ‘Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research’ in 1952 and remained there until 1965.
Archer John Porter Martin and Richard Laurence Millington were both alive at the time. In England, Synge made substantial advances in the separation of amino acids using paper chromatography.
Following Synge’s advice, Stein and Moore set out to separate amino acids on potato starch columns, which marked the start of their amino acid research.
The team was successful in isolating specific amino acids from a synthetic mixture, and their work was published in the peer-reviewed publication ‘Journal of Biological Chemistry.’ They tested the structures of bovine serum albumin and -lactoglobulin using their methods.
He was involved with the ‘Journal of Biological Chemistry’ for nearly fifteen years, first as a member of the editorial committee from 1955 to 1962.
He was the chairman of the committee from 1958 to 1961, after which he became a member of the journal’s editorial board in 1962. After that, he worked as an assistant editor from 1964 to 1968 before becoming the journal’s editor in 1968. Due to illness, he had to leave the position in 1971.
He was on the Medical Advisory Board of ‘Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School’ from 1957 to 1970.
In 1958, he and Moore co-developed the first automatic amino-acid analyzer, which aided in the analysis of protein amino acid sequences and contributed to the discovery of the ribonuclease enzyme’s composition.
In 1959, he and Moore published the first comprehensive investigation of ribonuclease’s amino acid sequence. They also looked at pancreatic ribonuclease, ribonuclease T1, pepsin, chymotrypsin, pancreatic deoxyribonuclease, and streptococcal proteinase to see how they functioned.
The biomedical research facility ‘National Institutes of Health’ (NIH) supported them financially for a time in their research.
From 1961 to 1966, he served on the National Institutes of Health’s Council of the Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness.
He was Professor of Biochemistry at the ‘Rockefeller University’ from 1965 to 1982.
‘University of Chicago’ (1961), ‘Haverford College’ (1962), ‘Harvard University’ (1964), and ‘Washington University at St. Louis’ (1964) were among his other academic endeavors (1965).
He was Chairman of the United States National Committee for Biochemistry from 1968 to 1969.
He was a member of the American Society of Biological Chemists, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, the
Harvey Society of New York, the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, and the Biochemical Society of London. Stein remained a member of the ‘Montefiore Hospital’ Board of Trustees.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome is an uncommon disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly targets peripheral nerves, causing damage to their myelin covering. Around 1971, he became paralyzed as a result of this disease, which limited his scientific research career thereafter.
He was the first quadriplegic Nobel Laureate when he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1972.
He was wheelchair-bound due to his physical condition, and he only went to the workplace on occasion until 1980.
Personal History and Legacy
He married Phoebe Hockstader in 1936, while still studying for his bachelor’s degree. William H. Stein, Jr., David F. Stein, and Robert J. Stein were their three sons, born in 1937, 1939, and 1944, respectively.
He died of a heart attack in New York City on February 2, 1980, at the age of 68. Stanford Moore, a long-time collaborator, penned his obituary for the ‘National Academy of Sciences.’
Estimated Net Worth
Howard Stein’s cars, income, salary, and lifestyle are all up to date. Howard Stein’s estimated net worth is $ 1 million, according to online sources (Wikipedia, Google Search, Yahoo Search).