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George Britton Chance

Birthdate: (97)
Death: 2010 (97)
Immediate Family:

Son of Edwin Mickley Chance and Eleanor Chance
Brother of Henry M. Chance II

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Britton Chance

Britton Chance (July 24, 1913 – November 16, 2010) was the Eldridge Reeves Johnson University Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Biophysics, as well as Professor Emeritus of Physical Chemistry and Radiological Physics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

At the 1952 Summer Olympics, Chance won a gold medal in sailing.

Early life and education

Chance was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He received a B.A. (1935), M.A. (1936), and Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry 1940 at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall.

Chance earned a second Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 1942 in Biology/Physiology.


During World War II, Chance worked for the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which was working on the development of radar. In 1952, he received his D.Sc. from Cambridge.

His research interests were diverse. He was promoted as the Professor of Biophysics at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and appointed the second director of the Johnson Foundation, a position he held until 1983. He was then appointed E. R. Johnson Professor of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry (later renamed as Biochemistry and Biophysics) in 1964 and University Professor in 1977.

In his early career, he was mainly working on enzyme structure and function. He had invented the now standard stopped flow device to measure the existence of the enzyme-substrate complex in enzyme reaction. In later years, while retaining his interest in those fields, he also focused on metabolic control phenomena in living tissues as studied by noninvasive technique such as phosphorus NMR and optical spectroscopy and fluorometry, including the use of infrared light to characterize the properties of various tissues and breast tumors.


He won a gold medal for the United States at the 1952 Summer Olympics in the 5½ Meter Class, alongside Edgar White and Sumner White.

Awards and recognitions

Chance joined the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1952. He received the National Medal of Science in 1974. He was also previously elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Medical Sciences, in 1968, as well as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (London) in 1981. He died in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in November 2010.

MDs from: Karolinska Institute (in 1962), University of Düsseldorf (1991), University of Buenos Aires (1993), University of Copenhagen (1995), Universita Degli Studi Di Roma "Tor Vergata" (1997).
D.Sc. degrees from: Medical College of Ohio at Toledo in 1974, Semmelweis University in 1976, Hahnemann Medical College in 1977, University of Pennsylvania in 1985, University of Helsinki in 1990. He was also made an Overseas Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.


Academic awards

Paul Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry, in 1950
John Price Wetherill Medal, in 1966
Gold Medal for Distinguished Service to Medicine, College of Physicians, USA, in 1987.
Gold Medal, Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, USA, in 1988.
SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering Fellow, 2007
APS - American Physical Society - Fellow, 2007
ICAS Distinguished Fellow
ICAS Liberty Award Recipient
Molecular Imaging Achievement Award from the Society for Molecular Imaging, USA, in 2008

Awards named after Britton Chance

The International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue (ISOTT) established The Britton Chance Award in honor of Professor Chance's long-standing commitment, interest and contributions to the science and engineering aspects of oxygen transport to tissue and to the society. This award was first presented in 2004 during the annual conference of ISOTT in Bari, Italy.
SPIE has established Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award, honoring his significant contribution to biomedical optics. The award will be presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the field of biomedical optics through the development of innovative, high-impact biophotonic technologies. In particular, the award will acknowledge pioneering contributions to biophotonic methods and devices that have significant promise to accelerate or have already facilitated new discoveries in biology or medicine, and will target achievements that span disciplines and may include elements of basic research, technology development, and clinical translation.
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Britton Chance's Timeline

Age 97