Monday, March 25, 2013

Sidney W. Fox

Sidney Walter Fox was born on March 24, 1912 in Los Angeles, California. His father, Jacob Fox, was a wigmaker and his mother, Louise Berman, was a Ukrainian immigrant. He attended the University of California Los Angeles, earning a bachelors in chemistry and the California Institute of Technology, earning a PhD in 1940. He taught briefly at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Michigan before moving to Iowa State University in 1943 and where he was a professor of biochemistry from 1947 to 1954. He was professor of chemistry at Florida State University from 1954 to 1964 when he became director of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Evolution at the University of Miami. He retired in 1989.

Fox's biochemical research dealt with the study of the origin of life. Fox's research showed that amino acids, when subjected to heat, will spontaneously form polypeptide compounds, Fox dubbed proteinoids (the earlier Miller-Urey experiment had shown that amino acids could have been generated by conditions of the Earth's primordial atmosphere). Fox hypothesized that these poly-amino acid molecules could be the origin the protein molecules that make up living things.  When put into water or salt solution these proteinoids form microspheres, that are one or two microns in diameter. These microspheres behave like cellular membranes, budding off and forming new microspheres. Fox believed that these proteinoid microspheres were the origin of bacterial cell walls. Fox's proteinoid theory for the origin of life has its detractors, who believe that concentrations of the particular amino acids that Fox used in his experiments could not have been present in the primordial environment. Fox was one of the first scientists to examine moon rocks brought back to Earth by NASA.

Fox died on August 10, 1998 in Mobile, Alabama.


Daintith, John; "Fox, Sydney Walter" in Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, Third Edition; CRC Press; 2010

"Sydney W Fox, Analyzed First Moon Rocks"; Los Angeles Times; August 18, 1998

Sydney W. Fox Wikipedia Entry

No comments:

Post a Comment