Beloff-Chain, Anne (1921–1991)

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Beloff-Chain, Anne (1921–1991)

British biochemist internationally recognized for her work on the metabolism of carbohydrates and hormonal aspects of diabetes. Name variations: Anne Beloff Chain. Born in London, England, on June 26, 1921; died in London on December 2, 1991; one of five children of Simon and Marie (Spivak) Beloff; sister ofNora Beloff (1919–1997) and Max Beloff; educated as a chemist at Oxford University and University College London; married Ernst Boris Chain (1906–1979, Nobel Prize winner for his work on penicillin), in 1948; children: two sons. Taught at Imperial College, London (1964–86); taught at the University of Buckingham (1986–91).

Although the worldwide reputation of her husband, noted Nobel Prize winner Sir Ernst Chain, sometimes overshadowed her scientific accomplishments, Anne Beloff-Chain was a highly respected scientist in her own right who was confident that her research could hold its own in the highly competitive world of modern biochemical research. Beloff-Chain was born in London on June 26, 1921, into a family of Russian-Jewish origins that had the highest respect for learning and scholarship. The youngest of five gifted children who would all go on to distinguished careers, Anne was expected to excel academically. She earned a D.Phil. at Oxford, then quickly picked up a first-class honors degree from University College London.

In the early 1940s, she met Ernst Boris Chain, a brilliant young Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, whose laboratory was close to the one in which she carried out her first research work. In 1946, she went to Harvard University for an extended period of research; upon her return two years later, she married Chain. From 1948 through 1964, they worked together on a number of joint projects at the Department of Biochemistry of the Instituto Superiore di Sanita. Beloff-Chain's numerous publications in major journals dealt with the intermediary metabolism of carbohydrates and the mechanism of action of insulin and hormonal control in relation to diabetes and obesity. One of her major achievements was the discovery of a new insulin secretagogue hormone beta-cell tropin present at abnormal levels in the blood of the obese. This hormone enabled researchers to establish a key link between diabetes and obesity.

In 1964, Anne and her husband returned to London, where she taught biochemistry at Imperial College, finally receiving a personal chair in 1983. Her retirement from Imperial College did not end her scientific work, and she was able to persuade the Clore Foundation to fund the establishment of a new Department of Biochemistry at the University of Buckingham, which she headed and staffed with members of her Imperial College team. Here she worked until the end of her productive life. When Anne Beloff-Chain died in London on December 2, 1991, she was survived by a solid body of scientific work, two sons who were productive scientists, and a large number of colleagues and friends who would miss her dedication and contributions.


"Anne Beloff-Chain," The Times [London], December 17, 1991, p. 16.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia

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Beloff-Chain, Anne (1921–1991)

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