Alexander R. Todd
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Alexander R. Todd

Alexander R. Todd British biochemist

British biochemist
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British biochemist
A.K.A. Sir Alexander Robertus Todd
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Chemist Scientist Politician Professor Biochemist
Type Academia Politics Science
Gender male
Birth 2 October 1907 (Glasgow, Glasgow City Council, Scotland, United Kingdom)
Death 10 January 1997 (Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire (county council area), Cambridgeshire)
Education University of Glasgow, Oriel College, Goethe University Frankfurt
The details

Alexander Robertus Todd, Baron Todd (2 October 1907 – 10 January 1997) was a British biochemist whose research on the structure and synthesis of nucleotides, nucleosides, and nucleotide coenzymes gained him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Early life and education

Todd was born near Glasgow, attended Allan Glen's School and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc in 1928. He received a PhD (Dr.phil.nat.) from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main in 1931 for his thesis on the chemistry of the bile acids.

Todd was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, and, after studying at Oriel College, Oxford, he gained another doctorate in 1933.


After graduating from the University of Oxford, Todd held posts with the Lister Institute, the University of Edinburgh (staff, 1934–1936) and the University of London, where he was appointed Reader in Biochemistry.

Todd became the Sir Samuel Hall Chair of Chemistry and Director of the Chemical Laboratories of the University of Manchester in 1938, where he began working on nucleosides, compounds that form the structural units of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).

In 1944, he was appointed to the 1702 Chair of Chemistry in the University of Cambridge, which he held until his retirement in 1971. In 1949, he synthesised adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD).

In 1955, he elucidated the structure of vitamin B12, later working on the structure and synthesis of vitamin B1 and vitamin E, the anthocyanins (the pigments of flowers and fruits) from insects (aphids, beetles) and studied alkaloids found in hashish and marijuana. He served as chairman of the Government of the United Kingdom's advisory committee on scientific policy from 1952 to 1964.

He was elected a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge in 1944 and was Master from 1963 to 1978. He became Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde in 1975, and a visiting professor at Hatfield Polytechnic (1978–1986). Among his many honours, including over 40 honorary degrees, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1942, was President of the Royal Society from 1975 to 1980 and became a member of the Order of Merit in 1977.

In 1981, Todd became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.


Todd died in 1997 after a heart attack.

Personal life

In 1937 Lord Todd married Alison Sarah, daughter of Nobel Prize winner Sir Henry Dale, who like Todd served as President of the Royal Society. They had a son, Alexander Henry, and two daughters, Helen Jean and Hilary Alison. Alison predeceased Lord Todd in 1987.


He was knighted as Sir Alexander Todd in 1954 and was created a Life Peer as Baron Todd of Trumpington in the County of Cambridge on 16 April 1962.

He is commemorated by a blue plaque erected by the Royal Society of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.

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