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Bakerian Lecture. A Region of Biosynthesis

H. Raistrick
1949 Proceedings of the Royal Society A  
Delivered 12 M ay 1949-Received 31 M ay 1949) [P l a t e s 8 to 11] I ntroduction The particular region of biosynthesis about which I propose to speak is that part of the kingdom of living things occupied by the fungi, particularly those fungi popularly known as 'moulds', with occasional reference to some higher fungi and also to lichens, which are of course symbionts of algae and fungi. It is, I think, not inappropriate that this should form the subject of a Bakerian Lecture, since the founder
more » ... , since the founder of this lecture, Mr Henry Baker, F .R .S ., who was an ardent microscopist, described in 1742 the spores of the fungus the common puff ball(i).f In the following year he gave a good description of Pilobolus, a mould of the mucor type, which he found growing on a culture of black mud from the river Thames (2 ). The exact position of fungi in the scheme of living things is still doubtful, since, to quote Dr John R am sbottom (3), 'if organisms must be either plants or animals, then fungi are plants with a nutrition resembling that of animals as they do not possess chlorophyll. If, however, chlorophyll is the hall mark of plant phylogeny the fact has to be faced that fungi probably never possessed it.' Because of the absence of chlorophyll, fungi can be cultivated only on media containing pre-formed organic matter, but this very fact makes moulds particularly suitable for biochemical investigation, since they grow well on very simple media. In spite of this fact, real interest in the chemistry of moulds may be said to date from 1891 with Carl Wehmer's classical observations that when Aspergillus niger is grown on sugar solutions oxalic acid is formed in considerable quantities (4,5,6,7), and that citric acid is a metabolic product of certain mould species to which he gave the generic name Citromyces{8, 9 ). For the next thirty years only an occasional paper appeared on this subject, and this wras the position when I was fortunate enough to be able to begin systematic work on the subject in 1923 with a small team of enthusiastic colleagues in the research laboratories of Nobel's Explosives Company Ltd., Ardeer, Scotland. This work was carried on there until 1929(io>, since when it has been continued in the Department of Biochemistry at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. * A list of species cited in the text with the authorities for each is printed in the appendix to the lecture. f Because of the large number of literature references cited, the custom usually followed in this journal of quoting in the text the names of authors and year of publication has been altered. Each publication referred to is given a number and the same numbering is used in the list of references at the end of the lecture.
doi:10.1098/rspa.1949.0131 fatcat:dlpgxo4rvfbjxl5f3utsfkoaiu