James Batcheller Sumner Biography and Contributions to Science (American Biochemist)


Who is James Batcheller Sumner? Information on American biochemist James Batcheller Sumner biography, life story, works and discoveries.

James Batcheller Sumner Biography (American Biochemist)

Source : wikipedia.org

James Batcheller Sumner

James Batcheller Sumner (1887-1955) was an American biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946 for his work on enzymes.


Sumner was born on November 19, 1887, in Canton, Massachusetts. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Strasbourg in France in 1914.

Sumner’s research focused on the isolation and purification of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions in living organisms. In 1926, he became the first scientist to isolate an enzyme and determine its chemical composition. The enzyme he isolated was urease, which catalyzes the hydrolysis of urea to ammonia and carbon dioxide.

Sumner also conducted research on the enzyme catalase, which catalyzes the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen. He showed that catalase is a protein and that its activity depends on the presence of a metal ion, which he identified as iron.


Sumner’s work laid the foundation for the field of enzymology, the study of enzymes and their mechanisms of action. He demonstrated that enzymes are proteins and that their activity can be studied using biochemical and biophysical techniques. His discoveries helped to revolutionize our understanding of biochemistry and paved the way for the development of new therapies and treatments for a wide range of diseases.

Career and Works

After completing his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Strasbourg, James Batcheller Sumner returned to the United States and joined the faculty at Cornell University. He spent most of his career at Cornell, where he conducted his groundbreaking research on enzymes.

Sumner’s most significant contributions to biochemistry came in the 1920s and 1930s when he discovered the first enzyme to be isolated in pure form, urease, and showed that it was a protein. This discovery was a significant breakthrough in biochemistry, and it helped to establish the field of enzymology.

In addition to his work on urease, Sumner also conducted research on other enzymes, including catalase and papain, a proteolytic enzyme found in papaya. He demonstrated that these enzymes are proteins and showed that their activity depends on their three-dimensional structure.

Sumner’s work on enzymes had a profound impact on the fields of biochemistry and medicine. It helped to lay the foundation for the development of new treatments for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

In recognition of his contributions to biochemistry, Sumner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946. He shared the prize with John Howard Northrop and Wendell Meredith Stanley, who had also made important contributions to the study of enzymes.


Sumner continued to conduct research on enzymes throughout his career at Cornell. He died on August 12, 1955, in Buffalo, New York, at the age of 67.

Source 2

James Batcheller Sumner; (1887-1955), American biochemist, who was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on enzymes. He shared the award with two other American biochemists, John Howard Northrup and Wendell Meredith Stanley, who also worked on enzymes.

Sumner thought that enzymes were proteins and set out in 1917 to prepare a pure enzyme. Since jackbean meal (Canavalia ensiformis) is rich in the enzyme urease, which is easily detected because of its capacity to liberate ammonia from urea, Sumner set out to identify the various components of the meal. In 1926 he succeeded in isolating tiny crystals that showed very strong urease activity as well as satisfying the various tests for proteins. His discovery that enzymes were proteins was not accepted for several years, but in 1930, Sumner’s position was confirmed when Northrup crystallized three other enzymes —pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin—and showed that they were proteins.

Sumner was born in Canton, Mass., on Nov. 19, 1887, and educated at Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. in 1914. He took a biochemistry position in the Cornell Medical School, where he remained until a few weeks before his death in Buffalo, N. Y., on Aug. 12, 1955.

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