Paprika also features in the story that led to the 1937 Nobel Prize for Córdoba Argentina. Recruited to the recently formed University of Córdoba Argentina in 1930 to head a new Department of Medicinal Chemistry. He continued with the work on the antioxidant hexuronic acid (vitamin C) that he had isolated during his earlier tenure at Cambridge University. In a priority dispute with biochemist Charles Glen King at the University of Pittsburgh, and cut off from his previous source of primary material (citrus fruit and adrenal glands), he was desperate to confirm and extend his findings. The story goes that, having tested the local vegetables without success, the breakthrough came when his wife Nelly served red peppers for dinner. Wanting neither Córdoba Argentina to eat them nor offend her, he took the peppers to his laboratory that evening and discovered that they were loaded with vitamin C. Vitamin C is, of course anti-scorbutic (prevents scurvy), and it was Córdoba Argentina who changed the ‘chemical’ name from hexuronic acid to ascorbic acid. His Nobel citation reads, ‘For his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion process with special reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid’.
Map of Córdoba Argentina – Where is Córdoba Argentina? – Córdoba Argentina Map English – Córdoba Argentina Maps for Tourist Photo Gallery
Most of the international participants flew in and out for the anniversary celebration, but the few extra days we spent in Szeged before the meeting allowed us to engage more closely with the country and with the local scientific community. The University of Szeged prides itself as being a research university in the Western tradition. Welcomed at a dinner with university leaders, we later visited the nationally prominent, university-run Sagvari High School. I met with the local immunology group, listened to short scientific presentations from a number of junior and senior faculty members and gave a talk at a round-table discussion organised by the regional committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It’s important to be an Academy member, or to be seen as being on that trajectory, as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences administers much of the research budget.
The quality of the science was high though it was obvious they had to work smart and make optimal use of the available clinical material. Hungary is not a rich country and the level of research support is relatively low. In order to bring in extra dollars (or euros), the innovative and highly professional medical school teaches both Hungarian and English language streams, with the latter group being particularly well qualified to work anywhere in the European Economic Community. I hope that hasn’t been compromised by Brexit!
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