Martin Karplus, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013

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Martin Karplus

Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Immediate Family:

Son of Johann Hans Karplus, Dr. and Isabella Karplus
Husband of <private> Karplus
Widower of Susan Karplus
Father of <private> Karplus; Theresa Karplus; <private> (Karplus) and <private> Karplus
Brother of Robert Karplus

Managed by: Randy Schoenberg
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Martin Karplus, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013

Martin Karplus received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".

Martin Karplus (born March 15, 1930, Vienna) is an Austrian-born American theoretical chemist. He has been Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University since 1979. He is also Director of the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory, a joint laboratory between the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Strasbourg, France. He received a BA degree from Harvard University in 1950, and a Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology in 1953 while working with Linus Pauling. He was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University (1953–55) where he worked with Charles Coulson. His brother, Robert Karplus, was an internationally recognised physicist and educator at University of California, Berkeley.

Martin Karplus has made significant contributions to many fields in physical chemistry, including the nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, chemical dynamics, quantum chemistry, and most notably, the molecular dynamics simulations of biological macromolecules.

Karplus has made varied contributions to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, particularly to the understanding of nuclear spin-spin coupling and electron spin resonance spectroscopy. The Karplus equation describing the correlation between coupling constants and dihedral angles in protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is named after him.

His 1970 book "Atoms and Molecules" with Richard N. Porter endowed a generation of undergraduate students with an intuition for physical chemistry.

His current research is concerned primarily with the properties of molecules of biological interest. His group originated and currently coordinates the development of the CHARMM program for molecular dynamics simulations. He is a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. He has supervised over 200 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in his long career (since 1955) in the University of Illinois, Columbia University, and Harvard University.


Martin Karplus, Nobel Laureate In Chemistry, Escaped Nazis During Holocaust At 8 Years Old.

Martin Karplus, one of three scientists who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on Wednesday, escaped the Nazis and the Holocaust aged just eight-years-old, according to his autobiography.

Karplus was born into a Jewish family in Vienna in 1930 and narrowly escaped Austria when Germany took control of the country in 1938, he wrote in a lengthy article in the Annual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure in 2006.

Karplus described how attitudes towards him and his family changed even before the Nazi takeover of Austria, and how two boys he and his brother had considered their best friends began bullying them. "In the spring of 1937, they suddenly refused to have anything to do with us and began taunting us by calling us 'dirty Jew boys' when we foolishly continued to try to interact with them," he wrote. When Nazi German troops rolled into Austria in March 1938, Karplus was able to escape to Switzerland with his brother and mother.

But in what he described as a "traumatic" aspect of the departure, his father was prevented from leaving and locked up in a Viennese jail.

"In part, he was kept as a hostage so that any money we had would not be spirited

As the small family secured passage to the United States and was preparing to embark on a trans-Atlantic journey at the French port of Le Havre, there was still no news of his father.

"He miraculously turned up at Le Havre a few days before our ship, the Ile de France, was scheduled to depart for New York," he wrote.

Karplus later learned that his uncle had signed a $5,000 bond for his release.

While Karplus, now 83, and his family were able to escape, many other Austrians Jews met a much more sinister fate.

"As history has recorded, many were not able to leave and died in concentration camps," he wrote. Karplus went on to pursue a stellar academic career in the United States, getting a PhD in 1953 before making the discoveries that earned him the world's most prestigious award for the chemical science on Wednesday. Source

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Martin Karplus, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013's Timeline

March 15, 1930
Vienna, Austria