Nobel Prize Winner Paul D. Boyer told a crowd Monday at Brigham Young University that the United States' changing attitude on science a few decades ago is partly responsible for his success.
Boyer stopped in Provo, the place where he was born, grew up and attended school, on his way to his summer home in Wyoming - a trip he makes each year from California.Boyer, professor emeritus at UCLA and a BYU alumnus, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in October 1997. In his seminar Monday at BYU he described his many years of research on ATP synthase.
The overall idea of Boyer's research is how to capture energy to make it useful in the body. What made his research different was his use of isotopic oxygen.
A 1939 graduate of BYU, Boyer said his work at BYU as an undergraduate was an important part of getting him qualified for a career and more than 50 years of research. He has received much recognition for his knowledge of enzymes, culminating with the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Besides his start in Provo, Boyer credits his success on luck and longevity. He also said the attitude toward science changed around the time he graduated from college.
"In our country after the war, we started a government support of basic research through the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Public Health Service made science in this country very productive," he said.
For example, from 1901, when the prize began, until 1946, only 7 percent of the prizes in chemistry went to Americans. Since that time, 55 percent of the recipients have been Americans, Boyer said.
Francis Nordmeyer, chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry, said Boyer gives BYU students a broad view of science with interesting personal notes and comments, which are left out of science journals.
"It's fun to listen to somebody describe their life's work," Nord-meyer said.
Over the past five years, Boyer said, the amount of research he has been doing has gradually declined.
Boyer served as class president of BYU when he attended the small campus at Academy Square. At that time, there were between 3,000 and 5,000 students attending the school.
He said he is pleasantly surprised by the department's excellent physical plant at BYU. The quality of education at BYU and in Provo and the beauty of the area are two memories Boyer recalls of his childhood and college years in Provo. Boyer remembers hiking and camping in Rock Canyon as a boy.