Dr Otto Warburg: A Life Devoted to Cancer Research

Dr. Otto Warburg: A Life Devoted to Cancer Research

Author: Trung Nguyen

Dr. Otto Heinrich Warburg (Oct. 8, 1883 - Aug. 1, 1970), MD (Medical Doctor), PhD (Chemistry), 1931 Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine or Physiology “for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme.”

Although Dr. Otto Warburg spent most of his life performing cancer research, he did not win the Nobel Prize for it, for reasons that are explained throughout this chapter. In 1931, he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology “for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme.” It was widely rumored among Dr. Warburg’s peers that he also won the 1944 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology “for his discovery of the active groups of the hydrogen transferring enzymes.”

However, in 1937 Adolph Hitler had declared a decree that forbade German citizens from accepting the Nobel Prize. Although the Nobel Foundation had denied Dr. Warburg had been selected for a second Nobel Prize, it probably had done it for political and economic reasons. During World War II, Sweden was a neutral (militarily neutral) country and benefitted from its neutrality by selling massive amounts of iron to Germany’s war machine. During World War II, iron export was Sweden’s largest source of income. Regardless of what actually happened, after reviewing his works, Dr. Otto Warburg should had won several Nobel Prizes over his distinguished career.

His cancer research was meticulously detailed in The Metabolism of Tumours, which is book five of five of the “Understand Cancer” series from EnCognitive.com.

More than any person in history, Dr. Warburg laid the foundation for the new field of biochemistry—the biology and chemistry of Life at the molecular and cellular levels. In biochemistry, Dr. Warburg’s credentials and achievements are unparalleled.

Otto Warburg: A Life Devoted to Science


Otto Heinrich Warburg
October 8, 1883, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Died: August 1, 1970 (87 years old), Berlin, Germany


Father: Emil Warburg (Professor of Physics, University of Berlin)

Mother: Elizabeth Gaertner Warburg

Sibling: Notte Warburg (sister)


-Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg

-Humboldt University of Berlin (PhD, Chemistry, graduated 1906)

-Heidelberg University (MD, Doctor of Medicine, graduated 1911)

-Naples Marine Biological Station, Naples, Italy (Scholar, 1908 - 1914)

-In his formative years, Dr. Warburg was tutored by the some of the greatest scientific minds at the time:
Emil Warburg (father, physicist),
Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann (leading botanist, physiologist, microbiologist),
Emil Fischer (1902 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry),
Jacobus H. van 't Hoff (1901 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry).

Personal life

-Lifelong equestrian

-Lifelong bachelor

-Lifelong scientist

Professional achievements

-MD (Doctor of Medicine)

-PhD (Chemistry, Doctor of Philosophy)

-In 1926 (English edition), he published The Metabolism of Tumours, which is the pioneering work on cancer research. The seminal book spawned the cancer research industry. Nearly all cancer research are still based on the Warburg Effect and Warburg Hypothesis.

-1931 Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine/Physiology “for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme.”

-Widely recognized as the winner of the 1944 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology “for his discovery of the active groups of the hydrogen transferring enzymes.” Due to war and politics, the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Joseph Erlanger (1/2 prize) and Herbert Spencer Gasser (1/2 prize). Both were American citizens.

-Nominated 47 times by his peers for the Nobel Prize. One of them was Albert Szent-Györgyi, who won the 1937 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology for discovering Vitamin C.

-Collaborated with the greatest scientific minds of his time, including Paul Ehrlich, Otto Meyerhof, Hans Krebs, Axel Theorell, Albert Szent-Györgyi, Charles B. Huggins, Linus Pauling—all Nobel Prize Laureates.

-Professor of Biology, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Berlin (1918 - 1938)
-Administrator of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (1931 - 1970)

-The Dictionary of Scientific Biography credited Dr. Otto Warburg with 59 “major discoveries and fields of interest.”

-Three scientists who worked under Dr. Warburg’s tutelage and laboratory went on to him Nobel Prizes: Otto Meyerhof, Hans Krebs, and Axel Theorell.

-With Dean Burk, Dr. Otto Warburg also discovered the mechanism of photosynthesis (the process used by green plants and other organisms to convert sunlight into energy). He detailed his findings in Mechanism of Photosynthesis (1951). For any other scientist, this discovery alone would had been a monumental achievement worthy of a Nobel Prize. However, his cancer research overshadowed his other works.

Military service

-1914: Enlisted as volunteer in the German military, stationed with the 202nd Uhlan Guards Regiment (calvary regiment), deployed to the Russian front.

-1916 - 1918: Prussian Guards Brigade (Officer)

-1918: Awarded the Iron Cross Medal (1st Class) for bravery on the battlefield.

Professional affiliations and awards

-Recognized as a Cell Physiologist, Biologist, Chemist, and Physicist. To many, the founding father of Biochemistry.

-German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM)

-French l’Ordre pour le Mérite (Civil Class)

-Honorary degrees from Harvard, Oxford, Heidelberg and many others.

-Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (investigation into medicine)

-Institute for Muscle Research

-Foreign member of the Royal Society of London

-Knight of the Order of Merit founded by Frederick the Great

-Awarded the Great Cross with Star and Shoulder ribbon of the Bundesrepublik

The Otto Warburg Medal (awarded annually)

“The Otto-Warburg-Medal is regarded as the highest award for biochemists and molecular biologists in Germany. Seven of the prize-winners also received the Nobel prize. With the medal, the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) honors pioneering achievements in the field of fundamental biochemical and molecular biological research on an international level... The Otto Warburg Medal is intended to commemorate the outstanding achievements of the eminent researcher Otto Heinrich Warburg. The German biochemist received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1931.” —www.otto-warburg-medaille.org

Quote unquote

Otto Heinrich Warburg was born in 1883 in Freiburg, Germany, of a prominent family: his forebears included philosophers, scientists, artists, financiers, and philanthropists. He studied chemistry under Emil Fischer [1902 Nobel Prize Laureate, Chemistry] in Berlin, and received a doctorate in chemistry in 1906. He subsequently studied medicine at Heidelberg, where he was awarded his doctorate of medicine in 1911. From 1908–1914 he was associated with the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, where he began research into oxygen consumption in sea urchin eggs and discovered after fertilization the respiration rates increased as much as 6 fold.” —Richard A. Brand, www.nih.gov

“The discoveries made in the middle and later part of the 1920s in Warburg’s laboratory included the discovery of the aerobic glycolysis of tumours, the general occurrence of the Pasteur effect, the accurate quantitative measurements of cell respiration and cell glycolysis, the carbon monoxide inhibition of cell respiration and the light sensitivity of this inhibition which made it possible to measure the action spectrum of the oxygen transferring enzyme in respiration (now referred to as cytochrome a3 ) and to identify the catalyst as an iron porphyrin, the development of spectrophotometric methods of analysis (twenty years later commercially incorporated by Beckman into his black box), the discovery of copper in blood serum and the fall of its concentration in anaemias.” —The Roots of Modern Biochemistry, Hans A. Krebs and Fritz Lipmann

“At Heidelberg he worked on the process of oxidation. His special interest in the investigation of vital processes by physical and chemical methods led to attempts to relate these processes to phenomena of the inorganic world. His methods involved detailed studies on the assimilation of carbon dioxide in plants, the metabolism of tumors, and the chemical constituent of the oxygen transferring respiratory ferment. Warburg was never a teacher, and he has always been grateful for his opportunities to devote his whole time to scientific research. His later researches at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute have led to the discovery that the flavins and the nicotinamide were the active groups of the hydrogen-transferring enzymes. This, together with the iron-oxygenase discovered earlier, has given a complete account of the oxidations and reductions in the living world. For his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to him in 1931. This discovery has opened up new ways in the fields of cellular metabolism and cellular respiration. He has shown, among other things, that cancerous cells can live and develop, even in the absence of oxygen.”

“His later researches at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute have led to the discovery that the flavins and the nicotinamide were the active groups of the hydrogen-transferring enzymes. This, together with the iron-oxygenase discovered earlier, has given a complete account of the oxidations and reductions in the living world. For his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to him in 1931. This discovery has opened up new ways in the fields of cellular metabolism and cellular respiration. Dr. Warburg has shown, among other things, that cancerous cells can live and develop, even in the absence of oxygen.” —www.Nobelprize.org

“Among Dr. Warburg's other broad-ranging research projects, Warburg isolated the first flavoproteins, studied the process of biological dehydrogenations and the metabolism of sea urchin eggs, and showed that niacin is required for respiration. He investigated photosynthesis, discovered ferredoxin (the electron carrier in green plants), and demonstrated how the energy of light becomes chemical energy. According to the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 59 ‘major discoveries and fields of interest’ are credited to Warburg. He taught at least three Nobel Prize-winners: Otto Meyerhof, Hans Krebs, and Axel Theorell...Later he discovered the mechanism of the conversion of light energy to chemical energy that occurs in photosynthesis. He also demonstrated that cancerous cells absorb less oxygen than normal cells.” —www.nndb.com

“Warburg's research began in the early 1920s, when, investigating the process by which oxygen is consumed in the cells of living organisms, he introduced the use of manometry (the measurement of changes in gas pressure) for studying the rates at which slices of living tissue take up oxygen. His search for the cell constituents that are involved in oxygen consumption led to identification of the role of the cytochromes, a family of enzymes in which the iron-containing heme group binds molecular oxygen, just as it does in the blood pigment hemoglobin...By 1932 Warburg had isolated the first of the so-called yellow enzymes, or flavoproteins, which participate in dehydrogenation reactions in cells, and he discovered that these enzymes act in conjunction with a nonprotein component (now called a coenzyme), flavin adenine dinucleotide. In 1935 he discovered that nicotinamide forms part of another coenzyme, now called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which is also involved in biological dehydrogenations...Warburg also investigated photosynthesis and was the first to observe that the growth of malignant cells requires markedly smaller amounts of oxygen than that of normal cells.” —www.britannica.com

“Warburg never married, never dated, and by most accounts never showed any interest in an ordinary social life. He instead preferred working long hours, allowing only his love of riding horses to occasionally interrupt his research.” —www.nndb.com

“Doctor Otto Warburg’s main interests are Chemistry and Physics of life. In both fields no scientist has been more successful.” —Dean Burk, Head of Biochemistry at American National Cancer Institute

“Dr. Warburg didn’t play language games or use weasel words in reporting his results. He stated his findings definitively, based on extremely thorough and meticulous experimentation. Because he rarely used qualifying words to describe his findings, his anticancer discoveries and results offer sharp, definitive conclusions. He spent almost 60 years investigating cancer and he repeated experiments as many as 100 times before publishing. He did not draw conclusions lightly and he did not publish them until he was sure—which is why he was able to state them in definite terms. In contrast to the irresponsible tone so prevalent today, Dr. Warburg always held himself accountable for what he published. With Warburg’s work, there was no need for the ubiquitous ‘new research shows...’ that the old research was wrong and in need of correction. That is also why virtually nothing he published was ever shown to be wrong later—it was not just that he was sure, but that his conclusions were based upon unassailable science consistently repeated around the world.” —Brian Scott Peskin, Glycolysis: Regulation, Processes, and Diseases

Literature and books

-Otto Warburg: Cell Physiologist, Biochemist, and Eccentric
By Hans Krebs
Biography, ISBN 9780198581710

-Cell Chemistry: a collection of papers dedicated to Otto Warburg on the occasion of his 70th birthday
Dean Burk, et al. 1953
A collection of papers dedicated to Otto Warburg on the occasion of his 70th birthday
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 53-7253
ISBN 0 0301 0010968 2

Books about Otto Warburg in German

-Werner, P. Otto Warburg. Von der Zellphysiologie zur Krebsforschung (Verlag Neues Leben, Berlin, 1988).

-Höxtermann, E. & Sucker, U. Otto Warburg (BSB B. G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, Leipzig, 1989).

-Koepcke, C. Lotte Warburg (Iudicium, München, 2000).

Dr. Warburg’s major works on cancer research

-Book: The Metabolism of Tumours (1923-1925, English edition 1926). His seminal work is still widely referenced in 2015 (90 years after it was written).

-Article: The Metabolism of Tumours in the Body (1926, English Edition 1931)

-Article: The Oxygen-Transferring Ferment of Respiration (1931)

-Article: The Chemical Constituent of the Oxygen Transferring Respiratory Ferment

-Article: On the Origin of Cancer Cells (1956)

-Article: Production of Cancer Metabolism in Normal Cells Grown in Tissue Culture (1957-1968)

-Article: Facultative Anaerobiosis of Cancer Cells (1962-1965)

-Lecture and articles: The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer (1966-1969)

A Plea from Albert Einstein

By the time he was a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in chemistry and a doctor of medicine (MD), Dr. Warburg had published several research papers that caught the attention of the scientific community. He had been recognized as a star on the rise. However, in 1914, at the age of 27, Dr. Warburg made an unexpected decision that probably shocked everyone. He enlisted as a volunteer in the German army and was deployed to the Russian front. Two years later in 1916, he was promoted to Calvary Officer in the Prussian Guards Brigade. In 1918, he was awarded the Iron Cross (1st Class) for bravery. After his military service, he was quoted as being very proud and fond of having “served the Fatherland.”

He was the only son of Elizabeth Warburg (Elizabeth Gaertner) and Emil Warburg, who was a professor of physics at the University of Berlin. Emil Warburg, a renowned physicist in his own right, was friends with many prominent scientists, and Albert Einstein was one of them. In fact, Albert Einstein and many distinguished scientists of the time were frequent dinner guests at the Warburg’s home.

Otto Warburg’s mother, Elizabeth, pleaded with Einstein to talk some sense into her son, who she thought was wasting his scientific talents on the battlefield. Below is a letter that Einstein sent to Otto Warburg the soldier:

Highly esteemed Colleague,

You are probably surprised at receiving a letter from me, because until now we have only walked past each other, without actually ever getting to know each other. I must even fear rousing some form of indignation in you by this letter but it has to be done.

I hear that you are one of Germany’s most talented younger biologists of great promise and that presently representatives in your particular field are quite mediocre here. I also hear, though, that you are stationed over there at a very vulnerable outpost, so your life is constantly hanging by a thread! Now, please step out of your own shoes and into those of another discerning creature and ask yourself: Is this not madness? Can this post of yours not be filled by an unimaginative average person of the type that come 12 to the dozen? Is it not more important than all that big scuffle out there that valuable people stay alive? You know it yourself very well and must admit that I am right. Yesterday I spoke with Prof. Krauss, who is also entirely of my opinion and is also ready to arrange to have you recalled for another assignment.

My plea to you, which arises from what has been said above, is therefore that you support our efforts in securing your personal safety. Please, after a few hours of serious reflection, write me a few words so that we here know that our efforts will not founder on your attitude.

In the ardent hope that in this matter, for once, reason will exceptionally prevail. I am, with cordial regards,

Yours truly,
A. Einstein
Haberlandstr. 5, Berlin W.


It wasn’t known if Warburg replied to Einstein. In any case, Albert Einstein, Emil Warburg (his father), Carl Corren (Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Biology), Schmidt-Ott (Minister of Culture), successfully secured Otto Warburg’s early discharge from military service. In 1918, Otto Warburg was back in his beloved laboratory. The rest is history.

1931 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony Speech

By Professor E. Hammarsten, member of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine of the Royal Caroline Institute, on December 10, 1931. The discovery for which the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is to be awarded today concerns intracellular combustion: that fundamental vital process by which substances directly supplied to cells or stored in them are broken down into simpler components while using up oxygen. It is by this process that the energy required for other vital processes is made available to the cells in a form capable of immediate utilization.

Many famous names and many discoveries have been associated with research on this vital process, while, before natural philosophical thought was limited by the demands of accurate measurement, it was a fertile field for speculation. The life work of many savants finds a place in the volume of which Otto Warburg has written—for the time being—the last pages. The first were written by John Mayow in 1670, then less than 30 years of age, whose observations on the power of saltpetre [another term for potassium nitrate] to set fire to organic substances led him to the view that certain igneo-aerial particles existed in saltpetre, in the air, and also in organic substances. He inferred that the significance and function of respiration was to bring these particles into the body, and so make combustion therein possible. It is clear that Mayow’s igneo-aerial particles correspond with oxygen, which had not yet been discovered. Some thirty years later the ill-famed phlogiston theory of combustion was born, and spread like an epidemic throughout the scientific world, causing the seeking for truth to be diverted from its proper course that had been opened by Mayow's discovery, which had, if one may use a somewhat dubious expression, been made before its time and had received little attention. Comprehension of the mechanism of combustion was thus, quite foolishly as it might seem, delayed for more than a century. Return to the proper path had to await the discovery by Lavoisier of the real nature of the process in connection with the final discovery and isolation of oxygen in the hands of Priestley and Scheele. Otto Warburg's work has met with a kinder fate.

As combustion of foodstuffs outside the body in the presence of atmospheric oxygen occurs only at high temperatures, it must be assumed that during combustion in living cells, something happens that alters the rather inert air-oxygen, or the foodstuff, or perhaps both so that they can react with each other. Fully conscious of the insuperable difficulties of explaining at present the innermost mechanism by which this inertness was overcome, Warburg decided to investigate the nature of the mysterious substance that acts as the primus motor in intracellular combustion. Nature often seems to use methods that appear to be indirect and less natural than those we should have devised, and such was the case here. It was not possible to isolate the active substance, the catalyst, or respiratory ferment as Warburg called it, by ordinary chemical methods, because it forms less than about a millionth of the weight of the cells to which it is firmly bound, while it is easily destroyed by procedures which might be used for liberating it. So, just as in modern atomic research, indirect methods had to be used.

It had been known, since the days of Davy and Berzelius, that many metals possess the power of initiating or accelerating various reactions, including combustion. Starting from the possibility that had indeed been envisaged earlier, Warburg assumed that intracellular combustion might also be regarded as being due to catalysis by metals, i.e. that it might be initiated by some metallic compound. Definite proof that he was on the track of this well-hidden secret of Nature was obtained by the use of exact measurements of combustion in living cells or, as Warburg calls it, cell respiration. The quantitatively measured variations in the process of combustion under different conditions threw light on the nature of the respiratory ferment. Its tendency to enter into compounds with substances which combine with iron showed that it is itself an iron compound, and that its effects are due to iron. The correspondence between the effects of light on cellular combustion inhibited by carbon monoxide and on carbon-monoxide compounds of certain pigments closely related to blood pigments led, with the aid of a detailed mathematical analysis to the conclusion that the respiratory ferment is a red pigment containing iron, and that it is closely related to our own blood pigment. This was the first demonstration of an effective catalyst, a ferment, in the living organism, and this identification is the more important because it throws light on a process of general significance in the maintenance of life.

Professor Warburg. From the start, your research has been focussed on problems of central importance. Your bold ideas, but above all, your keen intelligence and rare perfection in the art of exact measurement have won for you exceptional successes, and for the science of biology some of its most valuable material.

I take the liberty of mentioning those two of your discoveries, which seem to be of the greatest value.
The medical world expects great things from your experiments on cancer and other tumours, experiments which seem already to be sufficiently far advanced to be able to furnish an explanation for at least one cause of the destructive and unlimited growth of these tumours.

Your discovery about the nature and effect of the ferment of respiration, which the Caroline Institute is rewarding this year with Alfred Nobel's Prize for Physiology or Medicine, has added a link of brilliant achievement to the chain that binds for all time, John Mayow (England), Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (France), and Otto Warburg (Germany). On behalf of the Caroline Institute I invite you to accept the prize from the hands of our King.

A Lifetime of Biochemical Discoveries

“Pleasure flit by—they are only for yourself; work leaves a mark of long-lasting joy, work is for others.” —Dmitri Mendeleev

Many of Dr. Warburg’s discoveries up to 1953 are listed below.

1904: Splitting of racemic leucine ethyl ester by pancreatin (first publication).

1905: (EMIL FISCHER AND OTTO WARBURG) Splitting of racemic leucine into its optically active components by means of formyl derivatives.

1910-1914: Respiration of sea-urchin eggs, red blood cells, and grana.

1918-1920: Development of biochemical manometry.

1921-1924: Iron catalyses on surfaces. Narcotic action: displacement of substrates from surfaces. Cyanide action: chemical reaction with iron.

1920-1924: Quantum requirement of photosynthesis.

1923-1925: The Metabolism of Tumors.

1924: Iron, the oxygen-transferring constituent of the respiration enzyme ("iron- oxygenase").

1925-1926: Inhibition of cell respiration by carbon monoxide.

1927-1932: Action spectrum of iron-oxygenase.

1932-1933: Discovery of the yellow enzymes.

1932: First crystallization of a fiavin ("luminofiavin").

1935: Discovery of nicotinamide as the active group of hydrogen-transferring enzymes.

1935: Nature of coenzyme action (-dc/dt = k· E· c/C).

1935-1937: Development of the optical methods based upon the ultraviolet absorption band of dihydro-nicotinamide.

1936: Mechanism of alcohol formation in nature: Dihydro-nicotinamide +acetaldehyde = nicotinamide +ethyl alcohol.

1936-1937: Stepwise oxidative degradation of phosphorylated hexoses to trioses.

1937: Discovery of the copper of phenol oxidases, and its action through valence change.

1938: Isolation and crystallization of fiavin adenine dinucleotide.

1939: Crystallization of the oxidizing fermentation enzyme, and mechanism of the oxidation reaction of fermentation: Glyceric aldehyde diphosphate + nicotinamide = phosphoglyceric-acyl- phosphate +dihydro-nicotinamide.

1941: Crystallization of enolase, and chemistry of fluoride inhibition of fermentation.

1942: Crystallization of muscle zymohexase.

1942: In vitro Pasteur Reaction with hexos~diphosphate and yeast zymohexase.

1943: Crystallization of the reducing fermentation enzyme from tumors and comparison with the homologous crystallized fermentation enzyme from muscle.

1943: Fermentation enzymes in the blood of tumor-bearing animals.

1944: Quinone and green grana.

1946-1947: "Heavy metals as Active Groups of Enzymes'' and "Hydrogen-Transferring Enzymes" . Arbeitsgemeinschaft Medizinischer Verlage, Berlin, 1946 and 1947.

1948: The manometric actinometer.

1949: (With DEAN Burk) Maximum efficiency of photosynthesis.

1950: DEAN BURK AND OTTO WARBURG. The one-quantum reaction and energy cycle in photosynthesis.

1951: Crystallization of the hemin of iron-oxygenase.

1952: Zymohexase and ascites tumor cells.

1953: Chemical constitution of the hemin of iron-oxygenase.

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. —Galileo Galilei

Now, where your health is concerned, you can either trust scientists of impeccable character such as Otto Warburg, Linus Pauling, and many others; or you can trust TV actors and physicians who have financial motives to sell the latest drug, vaccine, and chemotherapy.

Part II: Otto Heinrich Warburg

Dr. Warburg achieved in one lifetime what others only dream of. His most notable achievement was that three scientists who worked under his tutelage and laboratory went on to win Nobel Prizes. This made him a great scientist and more importantly, a great teacher.

—Otto Meyerhof (1884 - 1951), 1922 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology (for his discovery of the fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in the muscle).

—Hans Adolf Krebs (1900 - 1981), 1953 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology (for his discovery of the citric acid cycle, aka the Krebs cycle).

—Axel Hugo Theorell (1903 - 1982), 1955 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine (for his discoveries concerning the nature and mode of action of oxidation enzymes).

Below is a brief biography of Otto Warburg by Dean Burk, who called Otto Warburg his “greatest mentor” and perhaps the “greatest biochemist” in the world. Dean Burk and Otto Warburg were friends and collaborators for over 40 years.

Cell Chemistry: In Honor of Otto Warburg
Dean Burk, et al. 1953
A collection of papers dedicated to Otto Warburg on the occasion of his 70th birthday
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 53-7253
ISBN 0 0301 0010968 2


Otto Warburg: Artisan of Cell Chemistry

Dr. Otto Warburg (October 8, 1883 - August 1, 1970); Biochemist, MD (Medical Doctor), PhD (Chemistry); Nobel Prize, 1931, Medicine or Physiology “for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme”.

By Dean Burk: Foreign Member, Max Planck Institute for Cell Physiology, Berlin-Dahlem, (Germany), and Head of Cytochemistry Section, National Institutes of Health, United States Public Health Service, Bethesda, Md. (U.S.A.)

Otto Heinrich Warburg was born on October 8, 1883 in Freiburg in Baden. In 1896 he came with his parents to Berlin, where his father, Emil Warburg, had been called to the Chair of Physics in the University of Berlin and was later appointed to the Presidency of the Physikalische Reichsanstalt (Imperial Bureau of Physical Standards). The mother [Elizabeth Gaertner Warburg] of Otto Warburg stemmed from a family of public officials and soldiers, and her brother fell as a general in World War I. In two large official residences of his parents—the first at the Marschallbrücke in Berlin, the second in Marchstrasse in Berlin-Charlottenburg, and both built from plans prepared by Frau von Helholtz—Otto Warburg grew up during the culminating period of splendor of the Germany of Wilhelm II, in personal touch with many leading circles in the capital.

In the home of his parents, Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann [leading botanist, physiologist, microbiologist] told him about Bacterium photometricum and photosynthesis; Emil Fischer [1902 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry] about plans to fathom the secret of enzymes; and Van’t Hoff [Jacobus H. van 't Hoff, 1901 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry] about the maximum work obtainable in chemical reactions. Thus the course of his life was already set in childhood.

Later, at the university, he learned chemistry from Emil Fischer, with whom he worked for three years; medicine in the clinic of Ludolf von Krehl, to whom he was an assistant for three years; thermodynamics from Walter Nerst, with whom he worked on oxidation-reduction potentials in living systems in 1914; and physics and photochemistry from his father [Emil Warburg], with whom he worked on the quantum requirement of photosynthesis in 1920 in the Physikalische Reichsanstalt. In 1913 he became a Member of the newly founded Kaiser Wilhelm Society. Since then, without interruption except for World War I, he has contributed increasingly to the fame and renown of this scientific organization, from 1931 on as Director of the Institute whose name is known to all biochemists.

He has never given a course of lectures to students. He is no administrator. He is no member of committees. Among the forty rooms in his institute he has no office, conference room, or writing room, apart from the general library. He selects his staff on a basis of technical ability and talent. In his opinion, the building of a research institute in the natural sciences must have for its main foundation a permanent staff of technically trained assistants.

He is best characterized as an artisan, or even, by his own frequent say so in public, as a technician. He believes that, in the natural sciences, one can find out something new when one does something with one’s hands that nobody did before. Thus, the fermentation of tumors was discovered when in the surrounding Ringer-solution the bicarbonate concentration was raised 20-fold. Iron-oxygenase was discovered when in biological experimentation with carbon monoxide the CO-pressure was raised 1000-fold. Acyl phosphate was discovered when in the oxidation-reaction of fermentation the phosphate concentration was raised 20-fold. The energy cycle and one-quantum reaction of photosynthesis was discovered when the light-dark time intervals measured in manometry were shortened from 5 minutes to 1 minute. Or, to mention an earlier classic example: the discovery of Planck’s energy quanta was initiated when in 1899 Lummer and Pringsheim placed Kurlbaum’s bolometer before a black body heated to different temperatures.

Although Otto Warburg’s endeavors to advance science mainly through his own experimental works, it cannot be said that he fails to look out for the future of scientists. Thus, he very early recognized the native gifts of Richard Kuhn and Adolph Butenandt, and assisted notably in their obtaining research institutes of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society at relatively youthful ages, and he is at present similarly concerned for younger colleagues. For all positions obtained by Otto Meyerhof in Germany—in Kiel, in Berlin, and in Heidelberg-he labored, successfully, against widespread opposition. After 1933, he helped scores of political refugees to leave Germany and to obtain haven and positions elsewhere.

But, like the Cowardly Lion of Oz, he was no “resistance-fighter”: he was not prepared to die as a defenceless scientist in combat with political dictator~. Yet he has been ever ready to lose his life as a soldier in the army. In World War I, as an officer in the Prussian Horse Guards on the Russian front, he rode in many field patrols in advance of the infantry, and was eventually wounded in action. In the early years of this fighting, he was, by the by, armed with both pistol and—less effective but more sinister—mediaeval lance!

He has spent the greater part of his life in Berlin, the most restless city in a restless world. Here he was ever favored with luck. In World War II, during the years 1939 to 1945, he and his entire staff enjoyed the singular privilege of continuing to work on purely scientific problems without reference to war work (see appended table). In 1943, as Berlin became dangerous because of air attacks, Prince von Eulenberg placed at his disposal the nearby castle of Liebenberg, where he and his staff lived and worked, with transported equipment, undisturbed until 1945. In that year the Red Army took possession of the Island of Rügen in the Baltic, and immediately provided a military guard for his estate there, making it possible for him to continue his studies still undisturbed.

His only misfortune was that in June 1945 the Russians removed all the equipment from his institutes. It appears that this took place at the instigation of the local Dahlem communists, for shortly thereafter Marshall Zhukov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian-occupied zone, invited Warburg for a visit to tell him, in the name of the Russian government, that the dismantling of his institute had been a mistake, and a misfortune for science. The Marshall issued an order that the apparatus and books be returned, but alas, everything had already been scattered to the four winds.

After the Yalta-Teheran agreements it became doubtful whether Warburg belonged to the Russian or to the American occupation zone, since he was domiciled partly in the Russian zone, on the Island of Rügen, and partly in the American sector of west Berlin; and, furthermore, his Liebenberg institute lay in the Russian zone, while the mother research institute was in the American sector of Berlin. Warburg decided for the Americans, and in 1948 began anew to re-establish at Dahlem the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Cell Physiology, the building of which had remained undamaged. From all sides he received help, as reward for not fleeing from Berlin, from neither Hitler nor Stalin. His efforts during the war years and after, to maintain his laboratory and experimental work, bore fruit in the uniquely early reconstitution of his institute, which, already in 1949, had become well equipped with apparatus and books.

It was during this year of the re-equipment of his Dahlem institute that he availed himself of an opportunity to visit his American friends. Through the courtesy and generous support of the National Institutes of Health, United States Public Health Service, at Bethesda, Maryland, he was enabled, in cooperation with the staff of the Cytochemistry Section there, and with Sterling Hendricks of the United States Department of Agriculture at nearby Beltsville, to develop modern methods of photosynthetic experimentation, and to “rediscover” the high efficiency of photosynthesis. As a conclusion to this important and memorable visit, the experimental set-up at Bethesda was transferred for the summer of 1949 to the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he had the privilege of demonstrating for many weeks, through the hospitality of Professor E. S. Guzman-Barron, the new methods to the rising generation of American biologists. Since these Woods Hole days he has been a member of the Institute for Muscle Research founded by Albert Szent-Györgyi and Stephen Rath.

On May 8, 1950, General Maxwell D. Taylor, then Military Commandant of the American Sector of Berlin, officially reopened the Dahlem institute. The rebirth of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Cell Physiology, celebrated with ceremony on that day, the fifth anniversary of the cessation of hostilities, was a signal event both for science and for the promotion of good relations among men of good will everywhere. Today, the Institute stands at the crest of the biochemical institutes of the world, and, in addition, is probably the finest photochemical institute in existence. Its director expects to do his greatest and boldest experiments, as did his distinguished father before him, after passing the three score and ten mark. His genius may be likened to a positive first order reaction with an extended half-time, attained only after the Half-Century of Biochemical Discovery listed below. His prescription for such continued scientific production is provided by the photograph concluding this Introduction, taken at the turn of his sixty-ninth birthday.

It would be superfluous here to give an extended list of the many honors received by Professor Warburg, such as the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1931, for iron-oxygenase), Membership in the Royal Society of London(1914),and, most recently (1952), Knighthood in the Order of Merit founded originally by Frederick the Great and restricted to thirty of Germany’s most distinguished citizens.

A scientific appreciation of his work is probably best realized by the following appended table, which contains a list of experimental contributions regarded by him as his most important discoveries. Most of these were accomplished and accepted only after long struggle, but this was no disadvantage. For the greater the resistance to a discovery, the more is the discoverer forced to fortify the new domain of knowledge; and the greater is the final victory. At the moment, battle rages over the energetics of photosynthesis. But the termination of this battle can no longer be in doubt when one reads the two communications concluding this volume. Indeed Time, the sovereign judge, has shown that all his published experiments have been right. Most of them were ahead of their time. Thus, their significance is still increasing.


The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer

Dr Otto Heinrich Warburg

Warburg, Otto Heinrich, 1883–1970, German physiologist. He was director (1931–53) of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (now Max Planck Institute) for cell physiology at Berlin. He investigated the metabolism of tumors and the respiration of cells, particularly cancer cells. For his discovery of the nature and the mode of action of (Warburg's) yellow enzyme, he won the 1931 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He edited The Metabolism of Tumours (tr. 1931) and wrote New Methods of Cell Physiology (1962).

German biochemist who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1931 for the discovery of respiratory enzymes that enable cells to process oxygen. In 1923 he devised a manometer (pressure gauge) sensitive enough to measure oxygen uptake of respiring tissue. By measuring the rate at which cells absorb oxygen under differing conditions, he was able to show that enzymes called cytochromes enable cells to process oxygen.

Later he discovered the mechanism of the conversion of light energy to chemical energy that occurs in photosynthesis. He also demonstrated that cancerous cells absorb less oxygen than normal cells.

Warburg was born in Freiburg im Breisgau and studied at Berlin and Heidelberg. In 1913 he went to the Kaiser Wilhelm (later Max Planck) Institute for Cell Physiology in Berlin, becoming a professor there in 1918 and its director in 1931. In 1941 Warburg, being part-Jewish, was removed from his post but such was his international prestige that he was soon reinstated. In 1944 he was nominated for a second Nobel Prize but Nazi rules prevented him from accepting the award.

Warburg discovered that in both charcoal systems and living cells, the uptake of oxygen is inhibited by the presence of cyanide or hydrogen sulfide, which combine with heavy metals.

He also showed that, in the dark, carbon monoxide inhibits the respiration of yeast but does not do so in the light. He was aware that heavy metals form complexes with carbon monoxide and that the iron complex is dissociated by light, which provided further evidence for the existence of an iron-containing respiratory enzyme. He then investigated the efficiency of light in overcoming the carbon monoxide inhibition of respiration, and determined the photochemical absorption spectrum of the respiratory enzyme, which proved to be a hemoprotein (a protein with an iron-containing group) similar to hemoglobin; he called it iron oxygenase.

The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer

All carcinogens impair respiration directly or indirectly by deranging capillary circulation, a statement that is proved by the fact that all cancer cells have respiration. Of course, respiration cannot be repaired if it is impaired at the same time by carcinogens. To prevent cancer it is therefore proposed first to keep the speed of the blood stream so high that the venous blood still contains sufficient oxygen; second, to keep high the concentration of hemoglobin in the blood; third to add always to the food, even of healthy people, the active groups of the respiratory enzymes; and to increase the doses of these groups if a pre-cancerous state has already developed. If at the same time exogenous carcinogens are excluded rigorously, then much of the endogenous cancer may be prevented.

These proposals are in no way Utopian. On the contrary, they may be realized by everybody, everywhere, at any hour.

Cancer, above all other diseases, has countless secondary causes. Almost anything can cause cancer. But, even for cancer, there is only one prime cause. Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar. All normal body cells meet their energy needs by respiration of oxygen, whereas cancer cells meet their energy needs in great part by fermentation. Oxygen gas, the donor of energy in plants and animals is dethroned in the cancer cells and replaced by an energy yielding reaction of the lowest living forms, namely, a fermentation of glucose.

Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd.


By Otto Warburg

MEDICINE -- Research
WARBURG, Otto Heinrich
CANCER -- Treatment
RESEARCH institutes
Geographic Terms:

The article discusses the development of modern research cancer, which applies the principles of Prof. Otto H. Warburg in the U.S. He was a famous cell biologist and cancer researcher of the 20th century. He discovered the nature of respiratory enzymes that is necessary for the operation of the institutions. According to director Craig Thompson of Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, the principle Warburg effect revived the probes that would be exploited for therapeutic benefit.

CELL respiration
ENZYME activation

The article presents that enzymes are responsible for the critical step of cell respiration, and how light effects their work - postulated by German Scientist Otto Warburg in 1930's. Earlier, the finding that the body could poison one of its own enzymes was not accepted and considered as an imperfection. The article also presents that the recent works on cell biology, indicates that one might be able to influence the life or death of cells by modulating the signalling.

*ADENOSINE triphosphate
Author-Supplied Keywords:
metabolic control analysis
mitochondrial metabolism
NAICS/Industry Codes621512 Diagnostic Imaging Centers

In early studies on energy metabolism of tumor cells, it was proposed that the enhanced glycolysis was induced by a decreased oxidative phosphorylation. Since then it has been indiscriminately applied to all types of tumor cells that the ATP supply is mainly or only provided by glycolysis, without an appropriate experimental evaluation. In this review, the different genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which tumor cells achieve an enhanced glycolytic flux are analyzed. Furthermore, the proposed mechanisms that arguably lead to a decreased oxidative phosphorylation in tumor cells are discussed. As the O2 concentration in hypoxic regions of tumors seems not to be limiting for the functioning of oxidative phosphorylation, this pathway is re-evaluated regarding oxidizable substrate utilization and its contribution to ATP supply versus glycolysis. In the tumor cell lines where the oxidative metabolism prevails over the glycolytic metabolism for ATP supply, the flux control distribution of both pathways is described. The effect of glycolytic and mitochondrial drugs on tumor energy metabolism and cellular proliferation is described and discussed. Similarly, the energy metabolic changes associated with inherent and acquired resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy of tumor cells, and those determined by positron emission tomography, are revised. It is proposed that energy metabolism may be an alternative therapeutic target for both hypoxic (glycolytic) and oxidative tumors.

*CELL organelles
*CARCINOGENESIS -- Molecular aspects
Author-Supplied Keywords:
Mitochondrial Genome
photochemotherapy (PCT)
reactive oxygen species
TCA cycle

The better part of a century has passed since Otto Warburg first hypothesized that unique phenotypic characteristics of tumor cells might be associated with an impairment in the respiratory capacity of these cells. Since then a number of distinct differences between the mitochondria of normal cells and cancer cells have been observed at the genetic, molecular, and biochemical levels. This article begins with a general overview of mitochondrial structure and function, and then outlines more specifically the metabolic and molecular alterations in mitochondria associated with human cancer and their clinical implications. Special emphasis is placed on mtDNA mutations and their potential role in carcinogenesis. The potential use of mitochondria as biomarkers for early detection of cancer, or as unique cellular targets for novel and selective anti-cancer agents is also discussed.

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The Cause of Cancer, the musical

Cancer was first described by the Greeks in the fifth Century B.C. being the slaves did the work so men of learning could learn and teach. The cause they failed to realize was cellular degeneration from all manner of stupidity and gluttony.
The Bible gave us leprosy, as a cancer type thing but that was like being turned into a pillar of salt, disbelief, disobedience to the biology of God. Marked of God, untouchable.

Enter a Polish chemist and he makes fertilizer out of coal tar, 1700. In the 1800s
The Boys from Brazil, excuse me, Bayer, I.G. Farbin figure how to make fake poop fertilizers profitable; with no idea of the consequences, no more bio available sulfur in our food.
In 1860 Germany becomes the first country of many to use synthetic chemical fertilizers and the consequences are:
1906 Alois Alzheimer describes 50 year old women lost in their own minds, German
women eating food fertilized without any sulfur.
1932 Otto Warburg describes cancer as an anaerobic cellular disease, Nobel Prize, though he had no idea what the cause for Germans to present with more cancer than the rest of Europe or the US. The synthetic plant foods made from coal tar crackled above the vaporization temperature of sulfur.
1938 I.G. Farbin contracts to make synthetic chemical fertilizers from crude oil with US oil in the West Nile Region of Africa. They got Ebola, HIV, and the West Nile Virus, the enemy of which is intracellular oxygen.
1939 Hitler invades Poland and the rest of Europe even tried the Russian winter, and though he failed the fertilizers succeeded and are succeeding in creating cancer daily
no matter what your nationality.
Cancer is a lack of intracellular oxygen, so is depression both caused by a lack of sulfur.

Cancer is man made, the synthetics of chemistry are incompatible with the biology of organic man. We can address this and all of the modern diseases by returning the mineral taken from us, so those “who know” can cull the herd and make an ungodly amount of money from our pain and suffering, that is mendacity.

Organic Sulfur a crystal food can transport oxygen across your cell membrane and take out the trash of commerce, science and medicine. Possibly it could allow your cells to repair from the damage of GE’s Japanese radiation business deal gone bad is producing.

If we are so smart tell a cell to regenerate, we exist because they regenerate healthy cells, it’s BIOLOGY, the biology of God.

Allow our biology to flourish with all of the cycles of life and none of the modern diseases will no longer be fodder for the rich and powerful, those who make that which makes you sick; doctors you, when you do; drugs you. when you do; and signs your death certificate when you die.
We are what we eat and until grown organically Organic Sulfur can replace the sulfur taken from our wives paps while nursing our children or from our grandparents unable to walk, or know who they are.

We are the Agents of the Crystalline Matrix and we have come to find the children lost in their own minds, and our seniors suffering the same chemical disconnect. When is loosing some you love acceptable collateral damage? Children the promise of life until the mercury making vaccine profitable shuts down their left brain to right brain communications. More work for the doctors, pHarma, good business? It is horrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God or an angrier mob of mothers with pitch folks and torches outside your homes.

BOYCOTT to BANKRUPTCY with a little lynching to keep the radials happy, a blood thirsty lot but remember you killed the ones they loved by taking a mineral necessary for healthy life and sold us a “heroin” to satisfy the pain but with no repair to the damage done so that we can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. WE the PEOPLE will have the health necessary for the promise not only of the Constitution but from the breath of God into the nostrils of man, dust of the ground, the minerals of life.

Got Organic Sulfur? Get Organic Sulfur!

Patrick McGean
Cellular Matrix Study
Body Human Project est. 1999