Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 128, Issue 3, pp 223–234 | Cite as

Louis Nico Marie Duysens (March 15, 1921–September 8, 2015): a leading biophysicist of the 20th century

  • GovindjeeEmail author
  • M. P. J. Pulles
History and Biography


Louis Nico Marie (L. N. M.) Duijsens (Duysens) was one of the giants in the biophysics of photosynthesis. His PhD thesis “Transfer of Excitation Energy in Photosynthesis” (Duysens, 1952) is a classic; he introduced light-induced absorption difference spectroscopy to photosynthesis research and proved the existence of reaction centers, introducing advanced methods from physics to understand biological processes. Further, it is his 1959–1961 seminal work, with Jan Amesz, that provided evidence for the existence of the series scheme for the two light reactions in oxygenic photosynthesis. In one word, he was one of the master biophysicists of the 20th century—who provided direct measurements on many key intermediates, and made us understand the intricacies of photosynthesis with a simplicity that no one else ever did. We present here our personal perspective of the scientist that Lou Duysens was. For an earlier perspective, see van Grondelle and van Gorkom (Photosynth Res 120: 3–7, 2014).


Reaction Centers Two light reactions Two photosystems Primary photochemistry Excitation energy transfer Electron carriers 



M.P.J.(Tinus) Pulles is grateful to his professors Jan Amesz and Lou Duijsens for what they taught him. Govindjee is thankful to his professors Robert Emerson, Jan B. Thomas and Eugene Rabinowitch for mentoring him and teaching him how to be a good scientist. He also thanks Baishnab C. Tripathy, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, for a Visiting Professorship in the School of Life Sciences. Highly valuable comments, on this paper, by Hans van Gorkom are gratefully acknowledged. We are indebted to the family of Lou Duysens for information on his early life and providing us the photograph used in Fig. 1. This manuscript was edited and approved for publication in Photosynthesis Research by Rienk van Grondelle, an Associate Editor of the journal. We also thank Henk van der Wal, Robert Blankenship and Rajni Govindjee for reading and making suggestions before its publication.


  1. Amesz J, Duysens LNM (1962) Action spectrum, kinetics and quantum requirement of phosphopyridine nucleotide reduction and cytochrome oxidation in the blue-green alga Anacystis nidulans. Biochim Biophys Acta 64:261–278CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Amesz J, Hoff AJ, van Gorkom HJ (eds) (1986) Current Topics in Photosynthesis. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Netherlands, 283 pp; republished in Photosynth Res 9: 1–283 (1986)Google Scholar
  3. Bakker JGC, van Grondelle R, Dem Hollander WTF (1983) Trapping, loss and annihilation of excitations in a photosynthetic system 2. Experiments with the purple bacteria Rhodospirillum rubrum and Rhodopseudomonas capsulata. Biochim Biophys Acta 725(3):508–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bannister TT (1972) The careers and cintributions of Eugene Rabinowitch. Biophysic J 12:707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butler WL (1972) On the primary nature of fluorescence yield associated with photosynthesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 69:3420–3422CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Das M, Rabinowitch E, Szalay L, Papageorguou G (1967) “Sieve effect” in Chlorella suspensions. J Phys Chem 71(11):3543–3548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Duysens LNM (1951) Transfer of light energy within the pigment systems present in photosynthesizing cells. Nature 168:548–550CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Duysens LNM (1952) Transfer of excitation energy in photosynthesis. Doctoral Thesis, State University Utrecht, Utrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  9. Duysens LNM (1954a) Reversible photo-oxidation of a cytochrome pigment in photosynthesizing Rhodospirillum rubrum. Nature 173:692–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duysens LNM (1954b) Reversible changes in the absorption spectrum of Chlorella upon irradiation. Science 120(3113):353–354CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Duysens LNM (1955) Role of cytochrome and pyridine nucleotide in algal photosynthesis. Science 121(3137):210–211CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Duysens LNM (1956a) The flattening of the absorption spectrum of suspensions, as compared to that of solutions. Biochim Biophys Acta 19:1–12CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Duysens LNM (1956b) Energy transformations in photosynthesis. Annu Rev Plant Physiol 7(1):25–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duysens LNM (1958) The path of light energy in photosynthesis. In: The photochemical apparatus. Brookhaven Symposia in Biology, vol 11. pp 10–25Google Scholar
  15. Duysens LNM (1964) Photosynthesis. Prog Biophys Mol Biol 14:1–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duysens LNM (1966) Primary photosynthetic reactions in relation to transfer of excitation energy. Brook Symp Biol 19:71–80Google Scholar
  17. Duysens LNM (1978) Chlorophyll organization and energy transfer in photosynthesis. In: CIBA Symposium, vol 61. Elsevier/North-Holland, Amsterdam (new series) pp 323–340Google Scholar
  18. Duysens LNM (1989a) The discovery of the two photosynthetic systems: a personal account. Photosynth Res 21:61–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Duysens LNM (1989b) The study of reaction centers and of the primary and associated reactions of photosynthesis by means of absorption difference spectrophotometry: a commentary on ‘Reversible changes in bacteriochlorophyll in purple bacteria upon illumination’ by L. N. M. Duysens, W. J. Huiskamp, J. J. Vos and J. M. van der Hart (1956) Biochim Biophys Acta 19: 188–190. Biochim Biophys Acta 1000:395–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Duysens LNM, Amesz J (1957) Fluorescence spectrophotometry of reduced phosphopyridine nucleotide in intact cells in the near-ultraviolet and visible region. Biochim Biophys Acta 24:19–26CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Duysens LNM, Amesz J (1959) Quantum requirement for phosphopyridine nucleotide reduction in photosynthesis. Plant Physiol 34:210–213CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Duysens LNM, Amesz J (1962) Function and identification of two photochemical systems in photosynthesis. Biochim Biophys Acta 64:243–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duysens LNM, Sweers HE (1963) Mechanism of two photochemical reactions in algae as studied by means of fluorescence. Microalgae and photosynthetic bacteria. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, pp 353–372Google Scholar
  24. Duysens LNM, Huiskamp WJ, Vos JJ, van der Hart JM (1956) Reversible changes in bacteriochlorophyll in purple bacteria upon illumination. Biochim Biophy Acta 19:188–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Duysens LNM, Amesz J, Kamp BM (1961) Two photochemical systems in photosynthesis. Nature 190:510–511CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Gast P, van Gorkom H, Aartsma T, Schmidt T (2002) Obituary: arnold Hoff (1939-2002). Spectrochim Acta A58:2069–2070Google Scholar
  27. Goedheer JHC, Thomas JB (eds) (1966) Currents in Photosynthesis: Proceedings of the 2nd Western European Conference in Photosynthesis. Woudschoten, Zeist, The Netherlands, September, 1965Google Scholar
  28. Govindjee (2004) Robert Emerson, and Eugene Rabinowitch: understanding photosynthesis. In: Hoddeson L (ed) No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, pp 181–194Google Scholar
  29. Govindjee, Björn LO (2015) Dissecting oxygenic photosynthesis: the evolution of the “Z”-scheme for thylakoid reactions. In: Itoh S, Mohanty P, Guruprasad KN (eds) Photosynthesis: basics to applications. IK International Publishing House Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, pp 1–27Google Scholar
  30. Govindjee, Fork DC (2006) Charles Stacy French (December 7, 1905-October 13, 1995). Biographical Memoirs. Nat Acad Sci 88:3–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Govindjee, Rabinowitch E (1960) Two forms of chlorophyll a in vivo with distinct photochemical function. Science 132:355–356CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Govindjee, Ichimura S, Cederstrand C, Rabinowitch E (1960) Effect of combining far-red light with shorter wave light on the excitation of fluorescence in Chlorella. Arch Biochem Biophys 89:322–323CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Govindjee, Pulles MPJ, Govindjee R, van Gorkom H, Duysens LNM (1976) Inhibition of the reoxidation of the secondary electron acceptor of Photosystem II by bicarbonate depletion. Biochim Biophys Acta 449:602–605CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Hill R, Bendall F (1960) Function of the two cytochrome components in chloroplasts: a working hypothesis. Nature 186:136–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hoff AJ, Aartsma TJ (2002) Obituary: Jan Amesz (11 March 1934—29 Jan 2001). Photosynth Res 71:1–4CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Hoff AJ, Rademaker H, Van Grondelle R, Duysens LNM (1977a) On the magnetic field dependence of the yield of the triplet state in reaction centers of photosynthetic bacteria. Biochim Biophys Acta 460:547–554CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Hoff AJ, Govindjee, Romijn JC (1977b) Electron spin resonance in zero magnetic field of triplet states of chloroplasts and subchloroplast particles. FEBS Lett 73:191–196CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Holmes NG, Van Grondelle R, Duysens LNM (1978) Flash-induced changes in the in vivo bacteriochlorophyll fluorescence yield at low temperatures and low redox potentials in carotenoid-containing strains of photosynthetic bacteria. Biochim Biophys Acta 503:26–36CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Kingma H, van Grondelle R, Duysens LNM (1985) Magnetic-field effects in photosynthetic bacteria. II. Formation of triplet states in the reaction center and the antenna of Rhodospirillum rubrum and Rhodopseudomonas sphaeroides. Biochim Biophys Acta 808:383–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kok B (1948a) A critical consideration of the quantum yield of Chlorella photosynthesis. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Utrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  41. Kok B (1948b) A critical consideration of the quantum yield of Chlorella photosynthesis. Enzymologia 13:1–56Google Scholar
  42. Mamedov M, Govindjee, Nadtochenko V, Semenov A (2015) Primary electron transfer processes in photosynthetic reaction centers from oxygenic organisms. Photosynth Res 125:51–63CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Myers J (1987) Bessel Kok: November 7, 1918–April27, 1979. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, Washington, DC, pp 125–148Google Scholar
  44. Nickelsen K, Govindjee (2011) The maximum quantum yield controversy: Otto Warburg and the ≪midwest gang≫. Bern Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, p. 31Google Scholar
  45. Nuijs AM, van Gorkom HJ, Plijter JJ, Duysens LNM (1986a) Primary-charge separation and excitation of chlorophyll a in photosystem II particles from spinach as studied by picosecond absorbance-difference spectroscopy. Biochim Biophys Acta 848:167–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nuijs AM, Shuvalov VA, van Gorkom HJ, Plijter JJ, Duysens LNM (1986b) Picosecond absorbance difference spectroscopy on the primary reactions and the antenna-excited states in Photosystem I particles. Biochim Biophys Acta 850:310–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Papageorgiou GC, Govindjee (eds) (2004) Chlorophyll a Fluoresence: a signature of photosynthesis, volume 19, Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration, Springer, Dordrecht, [Reprinted in 2010]Google Scholar
  48. Pulles MPJ, van Gorkom HJ, Willemsen JG (1976) Absorbance changes due to the charge-accumulating species in System 2 of photosynthesis. Biochim Biophys Acta 449(3):536–540CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Rabinowitch ER (1945) Photosynthesis and related processes, vol I. Interscience Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  50. Rabinowitch ER (1951) Photosynthesis and related processes (Part 1), vol II. Interscience Publishers, New York, pp 672–697Google Scholar
  51. Rabinowitch ER (1956) Photosynthesis and related processes, (Part 2), vol II. Interscience Publishers, New York, pp 1856–1866Google Scholar
  52. Rademaker H, Hoff AJ, Duysens LNM (1979) Magnetic field-induced increase of the yield of (bacterio)chlorophyll emission of some photosynthetic bacteria and of Chlorella vulgaris. Biochim Biophys Acta 546:248–255CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Shevela D, Eaton-Rye JJ, Shen JR, Govindjee (2012) Photosystem II and unique role of bicarbonate: a historical perspective. Biochim Biophys Acta 1817:1134–1151CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Shinkarev VP, Govindjee (1993) Insight into the relationship of chlorophyll a fluorescence yield to the concentration of its natural quenchers in oxygenic photosynthesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90:7466–7469CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  55. Shinkarev VP, Xu C, Govindjee, Wraight CA (1997) Kinetics of the oxygen evolution step in plants determined from flash-induced chlorophyll a fluorescence. Photosynth Res 51:43–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shuvalov VA, Nuijs AM, van Gorkom HJ, Smit HWJ, Duysens LNM (1986) Picosecond absorbance changes upon selective excitation of the primary electron donor P-700 in Photosystem I. Biochim Biophys Acta 850:319–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sonneveld A, Rademaker H, Duysens LNM (1979) Chlorophyll a fluorescence as a monitor of nanosecond reduction of the photooxidized primary donor P-680+ of Photosystem II. Biochim Biophys Acta 548:536–551CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Sonneveld A, Duysens LNM, Moerdijk A (1980) Magnetic field-induced increase in chlorophyll a delayed fluorescence of photosystem II: a 100- to 200-ns component between 4.2 and 300 K. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 77:5889–5893CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  59. Stacy WT, Mar T, Swenberg CE, Govindjee (1971) An analysis of a triplet exciton model for the delayed light in Chlorella. Photochem Photobiol 14:197–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Van Bochove AC, Swarthoff T, Kingma H, Hof RM, Van Grondelle R, Duysens LNM, Amesz J (1984) A study of the primary charge separation in green bacteria by means of flash spectroscopy. Biochim Biophys Acta 764:343–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Van Grondelle R, Duysens LNM (1980) On the quenching of the fluorescence yield in photosynthetic systems. Plant Physiol 65:751–754CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  62. Van Grondelle R, van Gorkom H (2014) The birth of the photosynthetic reaction center: the story of Lou Duysens. Photosynth Res 120:3–7CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Van Grondelle R, Duysens LNM, Van Der Wal HN (1976) Function of three cytochromes in photosynthesis of whole cells of Rhodospirillum rubrum as studied by flash spectroscopy. Evidence for two types of reaction centers. Biochim Biophys Acta 449:169–187CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Velthuys BR, Amesz J (1974) Charge accumulation at the reducing side of system 2 of photosynthesis. Biochim Biophys Acta 333(1):85–94CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Vredenberg WJ (2015) A simple routine for quantitative analysis of light and the dark kinetics of photochemical and non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence in intact leaves. Photosynth Res 124:87–106CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  66. Vredenberg WJ, Duysens LNM (1963) Transfer of energy from bacteriochlorophyll to a reaction centre during bacterial photosynthesis. Nature 197:355–357CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Vredenberg WJ, Duysens LNM (1965) Light-induced changes in absorbancy and fluorescence of chlorophyllous pigments associated with the pigment systems 1 and 2 in blue-green algae. Biochim Biophys Acta 94:355–370CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Vredenberg WJ, Amesz J, Duysens LNM (1965) Light-induced spectral shifts in bacteriochlorophyll and carotenoid absorption in purple bacteria. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 18:435–439CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology, Department of Biochemistry and Center of Biophysics & Quantitative BiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.UtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesJawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations