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Emeritus Professor Harry Morrison publishes enzyme sourcebook


Writer(s): Steve Scherer


Emeritus Professor Harry Morrison has just published a book on enzyme mechanisms titled, “Enzyme Active Sites and their Reaction Mechanisms.”

“The book emphasizes understanding the chemistry of enzymes and how they work. It consists of 40 chapters, each of which is about 4-6 pages dealing with a different enzyme. As indicated by the title, emphasis is on the enzyme’s active site, with a detailed description of the major amino acid components and the sequence of steps that convert a substrate to the product. The book is designed to give academic and industrial researchers an overview that can be then be further explored with leading references. It could be a very useful resource for courses in bioorganic chemistry, biochemistry and structural biology,” said Morrison.

Morrison, an organic chemist, says his interest in the interface between organic chemistry and biochemistry dates back to his graduate school days at Harvard when he attended a lecture by Croatian-Swiss organic chemist Vladimir Prelog. “He was just beginning to apply stereochemical principles of organic chemistry to understanding the remarkable stereospecificity of many enzymatic reactions. You might say it was one of the beginning-efforts of what’s now called bioorganic chemistry,” he explained.

Morrison was so fascinated by the field that he asked Prelog if he could work with him. Prelog said yes, if he could find the necessary funding. Morrison received an NSF-NATO postdoctoral fellowship and joined Prelog’s laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich in 1961.

Fast-forward to 2012 when Morrison was seeking a retirement project and wondered about the possibility of a compiling a sourcebook for enzymes. “I contacted my biochemistry colleague, Professor Minou Bina, and asked her if anything like this existed in biochemistry, and she said no – not that she was aware of. So I thought, I’m going to give this a shot. She was very encouraging and that’s the way it began,” he remembers.

Morrison came to Purdue in 1963 and retired in 2012, serving as department head from 1987-1992, and was Dean of the College of Science from 1992-2002.

During retirement, he and his wife, Harriet, have split time residing in West Lafayette and Florida, where Morrison is a visiting professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

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