40 years ago in Chemistry in Britain

40 years ago in Chemistry in Britain

Biology is a field which now comes properly under the aegis of chemistry. Consequently, some chemists ought to consider whether or not to claim the subject as their own by working in it. To a considerable extent, chemistry can embrace both biochemistry and the rest of biology.  

A biological cell contains probably some 2000-6000 different chemicals, many of which are capable of entering into many reactions. A large variety of catalysts - the enzymes - are also present. A whole variety of chemicals pass between cells, and the chemical nature of the cells alters slowly but continuously as the organism develops from egg till death.  

Many of the chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques recently developed by chemists allow detection of substances in the living cell, and the study of cell surfaces and cell processes. 

I feel in particular that physical chemistry, eg  colloid science, is going to contribute greatly to biology. 

Overall, I feel that biology has reached that point of scientific growth where its only future is as a branch of chemistry, and chemists can move into it without any intellectual shock. There are still branches of biology, such as the study of behaviour, in which the chemist can do little of use, but the greater part of biology, including genetics, development biology, cell biology, is ready for the chemist. 

Extracted from an article on the chemist and biology by Professor A G Curtis of the Department of Cell Biology at Glasgow University.  Chemistry in Britain, April 1968