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Sir Walter Norman Haworth

Walter Haworth
Born March 19, 1883(1883-03-19)
Chorley, Lancashire, England
Died March 19, 1950 (aged 67)
Barnt Green, Worcestershire, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Organic chemistry
Institutions Durham University
University of Birmingham
Alma mater University of Manchester
University of Göttingen
Doctoral advisor William Henry Perkin, Jr.,
Otto Wallach
Known for investigations on carbohydrates and vitamin C
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1937)

Sir Walter Norman Haworth (March 19, 1883, Chorley, Lancashire – March 19, 1950, Barnt Green, Worcestershire) was a British chemist who is best known for his groundbreaking work on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) whilst working at Birmingham University.

He received the 1937 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his investigations on carbohydrates and vitamin C". The prize was shared with Swiss chemist Paul Karrer for his work on other vitamins.

He decided to attend Manchester University in 1903 and study chemistry after working for some time in a linoleum factory run by his father. He made this decision in spite of the strong disapproval of his parents. After he finished his master's degree with William Henry Perkin, Jr., he subsequently studied at the University of Göttingen earning his PhD degree with Otto Wallach.

In 1912 Haworth became a lecturer at United College of University of St Andrews in Scotland and became interested in carbohydrate chemistry, which was being investigated at St Andrews by Thomas Purdie (1843-1916) and James Irvine (1877-1952). Haworth began his work on simple sugars in 1915 and developed a new method for the preparation of the methyl ethers of sugars using methyl sulfate and alkali (now called Haworth methylation). He then began studies on the structural features of the disaccharides.

Haworth organized the laboratories at St Andrews University for the production of chemicals and drugs for the British government during World War I (1914-1918). He was appointed professor of organic chemistry at Durham University in 1920. Three years later, he became Mason Professor of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham.

In 1934, working with British chemist Sir Edmund Hirst, he was able to synthesize vitamin C.

He developed a simple method of representing on paper the three-dimensional structure of sugars. The representation, now known as a Haworth projection, is still widely used in biochemistry.[1]

He was knighted in 1947. He died on March 19, 1950, his 67th birthday.

Haworth is commemorated at Birmingham University in the Haworth Building, which houses most of the Birmingham University School of Chemistry). Also, the School now has a Haworth Chair of Organic Chemistry, currently held by Professor Nigel Simpkins.


  1. ^ Garrett, R.; Grisham, C. M. (2005), Biochemistry (3rd ed.), Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole, p. 207, ISBN 0-534-49011-6  

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