The Department of Biology at Boston University mourns the loss of Sir Hans Kornberg, Professor of Biology and a beloved member of the BU Biology Department for 24 years.
Born in 1928, Hans Kornberg fled to the UK from Nazi Germany at the age of 11. After finding an interest in chemistry, Dr. Kornberg studied in the Krebs Lab at the University of Sheffield and earned his PhD in Biochemistry in 1953. After working in several research labs in the US and the UK and lecturing at Oxford, Dr. Kornberg was a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Leicester. He was the Sir William Dunn Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, and later served as the 34th Master of Christ’s College and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for the University of Cambridge. Upon retirement in 1995, Dr. Kornberg was invited to serve as Director of the Boston University University Professors Program, which he did until the program’s end in 2011. In addition to leading the UNI program, he was a Professor of Biology and he taught Biochemistry to undergraduate and graduate students at Boston University for the past 24 years.
He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He was appointed Fellow of the Royal Society in 1965, and was knighted in 1978. He holds 11 honorary doctorates and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, as well as a Foreign Associate Member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the UK Biochemical Society’s inaugural Colworth Medal and the Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Sir Hans’ research, conducted for over 70 years, was focused on the regulation of carbohydrate transport in micro-organisms. Starting out as a bottle washer for Hans Krebs, Hans Kornberg was an author of over 250 publications. Two of his significant scientific accomplishments were the elucidation of the glyoxylate cycle and the concept and mechanisms of anaplerosis, the former being a cycle used by plants and other non-animals to enable the biosynthesis of biomass from 2-carbon compounds, and the latter being an important mechanism assuring that carbon oxidation by the Krebs cycle can continue by replenishing the intermediates that are drained by various biosynthetic reactions.
Sir Hans will be greatly missed by his colleagues and students. Not just a brilliant biochemist and skilled educator, Dr. Kornberg always had an anecdote or witty story at hand, whether about his friendship with Julie Andrews in his youth or his affinity for Latin wordplay. Visitors to the Kornberg Lab were promptly invited to take part in the most important experiment of all: making coffee! Sir Hans is remembered for his generosity, incredible wit, many stories, endless puns, and cheerful nature.
Sir Hans was the dearly loved husband of Donna and of the late Monica; cherished father of Julia, Rachel, Jonathan and Simon; and adored grandfather and great-grandfather. The Funeral Service will take place at noon on December 20th at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation, 7 Hatchville Road, East Falmouth, MA. Flowers if desired to: Lady Kornberg, c/o Chapman Cole & Gleason, 475 Main Street, Falmouth, MA 02540. Donations may be made in lieu of flowers, in Hans’ memory to the Hans Kornberg travel prize at Christ’s College, Cambridge, England. For online guestbook and directions, please visit Chapman, Cole, & Gleason Funeral Home in Falmouth, MA – 508.540.4172