Robert Huber

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Robert Huber (1937)

German biochemist who, along with Johann Deisenhofer and Hartmut Michel, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1988 for their determination of the structure of a protein complex that is essential to photosynthesis in bacteria. Huber received his doctorate from the Munich Technical University. In 1972 he joined the staff of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry at Martinsried, Ger., where he conducted his award-winning research with Deisenhofer and Michel. He alternately worked there and at the Munich Technical University.

Huber was an internationally recognized expert in the use of X-ray diffraction to determine the atomic structure of complex molecules such as proteins. Once a protein has been reduced to a pure crystalline form, its atomic structure can be deduced by analyzing the manner in which the crystal’s atoms scatter a beam of X rays.

Huber and his colleagues used this technique to determine the structure of a protein complex (called a photosynthetic reaction centre) that is essential to photosynthesis in certain bacteria. By 1985 the three scientists had succeeded in describing the complete atomic structure of the protein. Although bacterial photosynthesis is somewhat simpler than that carried on by plants, the scientists‘ work significantly increased the understanding of the mechanisms of photosynthesis in general.