Remembering Melvin Calvin (1911–1997), a highly versatile scientist of the 20th century

  • Govindjee GovindjeeEmail author
  • Arthur Nonomura
  • Hartmut K. Lichtenthaler
History and Biography


Melvin Calvin (1911–1997) was the recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of the canonical photosynthetic carbon reduction cycle. We present here a very brief glimpse of this extraordinary American scientist, who in his time was a preeminent force in physical and organic chemistry. Besides natural photosynthesis, Calvin’s prolific career included artificial photosynthesis, colors of organic substances, the origin of life, cancer, moon rocks, molecular basis of learning, and plant lipids & algal hydrocarbons as potential renewable sources of transport fuels.


American ingenuity Andrew A. Benson James A. Bassham Carbon reduction cycle Calvin Lab Mr. Photosynthesis 



We thank Elin Sowie, Melvin Calvin’s daughter for graciously talking with one of us (Govindjee), and for sharing memories of her father. Govindjee thanks his wife Rajni for reading this file before its submission.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11120_2019_693_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1273 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology, Department of Biochemistry and the Center of Biophysics & Quantitative BiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Carbon Reactions of Photosynthesis SectorBrandt iHammerPowellUSA
  3. 3.Botanisches Institut II, Molekularbiologie und Biochemie der PflanzenKarlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany

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