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History of Chemistry

Between 1901 and 2020, the Nobel Prize has been 112 times to 186 Laureates in chemistry history. Some of the winners of this price include Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, and Stanley Whittingham. Frances Arnold, Jacobus Henricus Van etc. In this paper, I will focus on Frances Arnold, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 for pioneering the use of directed evolution to develop enzymes with improved novel function.

Frances Arnold is an American chemical engineer and Nobel Prize Laureate born on July 25, 1956. At the California Institute of Technology, she is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Bioengineering. In 1978, she received a Nobel Prize for founding the usage of directed evolution to engineer enzymes. She grew up in the neighbourhoods of Shadyside and Squirrel Hill and graduated from Taylor Allderdice high school. In 1979, she graduated from the University of Princeton with a mechanical and aerospace degree focused on solar energy research. After graduating from Princeton University, she worked for Colorado’s solar energy Research Institute and then later joined California University in Berkeley, where she acquired a PH.D. degree in Chemical engineering in 1985. Her interest in biochemistry grew so much after attaining her degree. Since then, she has worked with various companies like Gevo, Inc. Company, Santa Fe Institute, National Academy of sciences and Entertainment exchange. In 2019, Frances Arnold was named to the board of Alphabet Inc., making her the third female of the Google parent company director.

The research that won Arnold a Nobel Prize in chemistry’s history was on Enzymes’ directed evolution. Between 1980 and 1990, the study that applied enzymes to catalyze chemical reactions was hard as the usual methodology required identifying the initial principles of modifying an enzyme. Arnold came in and decided to use the method of evolution. She changed the enzyme subtilisin E, which breaks down the protein casein to make it function in the solvent dimethylformamide as an alternative of a cell’s watery surroundings. She introduced various arbitrary mutations into the genetic code of bacteria that created subtilisin E. She presented her mutated enzymes into a setting that had both casein and DMF. Wrublewski (2019) explains that Arnold chose the new enzyme to break down casein in DMF and presented arbitrary mutations into that enzyme. She finally come up with a mutated subtilisin E after three such generations that were many times better at breaking down casein in DMF than the original. Together with her co-workers, Arnold protracted the procedure of directed enzyme evolution to modify enzymes for reactions that no enzyme had catalyzed earlier. They were similarly able to evolve enzymes to create elements with bonds that hardly happen in biology (Fahlman, 2018).

The Nobel Prizes’ main aim is to reward people who have made significant steps towards bringing a positive change in the world. For a person like Frances Arnold to be considered the winner of the Nobel Prize, there is a followed procedure. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has the role of selecting qualifying candidates and choosing the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates (Partington, 2016). The candidates eligible for the Peace Prize are those nominated by qualified individuals. Invitation letters are first sent out to persons qualified to select like the university chancellors, leaders of research institutes etc. They are given a deadline for submission, which is not later than February 1 every year. The committee evaluates the work of the candidates and develops a shorter list. The shortlist is reviewed by permanent advisors and those hired because of their knowledge about some candidates. The Nobel committee chooses the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates through a common vote, whose names are then mentioned. Lastly, the Nobel Laureates receive their prices during the Price Award Ceremony that occurs on December 10th. The prize contains the Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a certificate is ratifying the aggregate of the award.

There are various Nobel Prize winners in the history of Chemistry. However, I decided to write about Frances Arnold because she is among the few women who have worked so hard to change the world positively. She is the third woman to receive a Nobel Prize in the history of chemistry. Throughout her work, she displayed an independence trait by coming up with creative solutions to problems and her questions. She is also a good role model who inspires scientists’ next generation to keep working hard despite the challenges faced.

This assignment has given me a better and broader understanding of chemistry’s history. I have learned the various challenges researchers faced and how they applied different chemistry techniques to solve them. There various things that can be done differently to improve the future of chemistry even better. For instance, more research should be conducted to provide solutions to multiple problems in chemistry (Fahlman, 2018). The basis of awarding the Nobel Prize should be made tighter in chemistry to make researchers work extra hard to come up with many important inventions that can positively change the world.


Fahlman, B. D. (2018). What is “materials chemistry”?. In Materials chemistry (pp. 1-21). Springer, Dordrecht.

Partington, J. R. (2016). History of Chemistry. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Wrublewski, D. T. (2019). Analysis for Science Librarians of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Directed Evolution of Enzymes and Phage Display of Peptides and Antibodies. Science & Technology Libraries38(1), 51-69.

Zeymer, C. (2019). Directed Evolution of Selective Enzymes: Catalysts for Organic Chemistry and Biotechnology. By Manfred T. Reetz. ChemBioChem20(3), 415-416.


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