William Howard Stein Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


William Howard Stein

Birthday :

June 25, 1911

Died On :

February 2, 1980

Birth Place :

New York City, New York, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


William Howard Stein was a renowned biochemist from the United States. Together with Christian B Anfinsen and Stanford Moore, William Howard Stein won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1972, as a result of his contribution to remarkable research work.

The work entailed findings on the chemical and molecular association of ribonuclease molecules about its catalytic activity. Together with Moore, Stein came up with new methods to perform chromatography, made with a tool that enabled analysis of the pancreatic enzyme ribonuclease.

William Howard Stein has worked as a professor for most of his profession mostly at Rockefeller University and has also served as a visiting professor in various universities like Harvard and University of Chicago. Through his career, Howard has been the recipient of many awards due to his diligent, creative and remarkable work.

Early life and development

William Howard Stein was born on 25th June 1911 in New York City. His parents were Fred Stein and Beatrice Cecilia, who were Jewish. Fred worked as a businessman but gave up his career early to concentrate on healthcare issues. Beatrice, on the other hand, served as an activist and promoter of children’s rights. Stein had two siblings namely Fred Michael Stein and Cecilia Borg-Stein, whereby Fred worked as a health advocate while Cecilia followed her mother’s footsteps in child rights activism.

William Howard Stein went to college at Lincoln school of teachers college, which was a consequent college of Columbia University.  It was considered a top-notch institution regarding ideas and methods of learning, and William Howard Stein graduated there in 1927. Howard then joined Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, Hampshire. The school was a private and independent institution, and while there, Stein gained interest and motivation to study fundamental science, after persuasion by his parents.

William Howard Stein, however, went to Harvard University and graduated in 1933 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry. Later, Stein pursued further studies in Chemistry at Columbia University and graduated in 1935 from Columbia University. He continued education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and by 1938, he completed his Ph.D. on amino acids analysis of elastin.



William Howard Stein began working at the Rockefeller Institute for medical research immediately after completing his Ph.D. education. William Howard Stein served as a researcher and was associated with a famous Jewish-German mathematician called Max Bergmann. Also, Stein associated with many other brilliant researchers, for example, Klaus Hofmann and Joseph S. Fruton, Moore and Emil L Smith.

With Moore, their research responsibility was to figure out logical procedures that could be used to research on protein’s amino acid structure. When the World War II began, Moore was commissioned to serve as a technical aid to the National Defense Research Council located in Washington DC. During this time, the whole research unit was absorbed at the `office of scientific research and Development.’

In 1944, Max Bergmann passed away, which caused the research unit to be devoid of a leader. However, the research work proceeded as usual, and Herbert Gasser was soon appointed as director. After the war, Moore got back to the institute, and the director Gasser offered him and Stein the freedom of choice to condition research on whatever field they desired. In 1952,

William Howard Stein was employed by `Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research,’ a position Stein held until 1965. At the time, the likes of Richard Millington Synge and Archer Porter Martin developed a brilliant procedure for separating amino acids using paper chromatography. Stein and Moore were fascinated by this development and decided to research further on the matter.

William Howard Stein and Moore conducted experiments on separation of amino acids using columns of Potato starch. This was their first research work on amino acids. During the investigation, they were able successfully to separate individual amino acids from a synthetic mixture. Their work was later featured in a scientific Journal called `Journal of Biological chemistry.’ They continued with their work and used their procedures to figure out the composition of` B-lactoglobulin’ and `Bovine serum albumin.’

During his career, Stein was part of a committee named `Journal of Biological Chemistry’ for about fifteen years. Initially, Howard served a member of the editorial group, and then became its chairman and member of the editorial board. Also, Howard later became the associate director and finally the journal’s editor.Stein gave up his position in the Journal committee mainly due to health reasons in 1971. Also, William Howard Stein was part of the `medical advisory board’ of Hebrew university’s medical school, a position he held between 1957 and 1970.

In 1958, William Howard Stein's research work with Moore led to the development of an automatic amino-acid analyzer. The analyzer was the first of its kind and enabled through analysis of proteins and also enabled analysis of the composition of an enzyme called ribonuclease. The following year, Stein and Moore publicized that they completed the study of the whole structure of amino acids in ribonuclease. Also, they had come up with a comprehensive analysis of the composition, functioning of various proteins, for example, ribonuclease T1, Streptococcal proteinase, pancreatic ribonuclease among others.

At the time, William Howard Stein and Moore were sponsored financially by a research facility called `National Institutes of Health.’ Stein was a member of a board of the institution, in the department of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, a position he held from 1961 to 1966.Howard spent most of his career as a professor at the Rockefeller University, where he served from 1965 to 1982, and also worked as a visiting professor at Washington University at St Louis, Harvard University, Haverford College and University of Chicago.

During William Howard Stein's career, he was part of many scientific societies for example `American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular biology,’ ` American Society of Biological Chemists,’ `American Association for the advancement of science’ among others.


Personal life

William Howard Stein married Phoebe Hockstader in 1936 during his university days. Together, they had three sons namely David F Stein, Robert J Stein and William H stein.



William Howard Stein died on 2nd February 1980 as a result of a heart attack in New York. Stein's obituary was written by his lifetime co-worker Stanford Moore and preserved at the National Academy of Sciences.

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