Structural Biochemistry/Maria Manasseina

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Maria Manaseina

Maria Mikhailovna Manasseina-Korkunova (1843–1903), also known as Marie von Manassein and Marie de Manacéine, was one of the pioneer in physiological chemistry and experimental somnology at the beginning of 20th century.

Personal life and Career[edit | edit source]

Maria M. Manasseina was a daughter of Professor Mikhail Andreevich Korkunov (1806–1858, a famous Russian historian and archeologist. With excellent education received from her father, Maria Manasseina became one of the first women in Russia to obtain a degree of Doctor of Medicine. Her first marriage was with Poniatovsky, who was arrested and died in a political exile. In 1865, she married her second husband, Vyacheslav Avksentievich Manassein (1841–1901), who was a professor at the Medical Military Academy and a publisher of the first Russian medical magazine.

In 1870–1871, Maria Manasseina started to study the process of alcoholic fermentation in the laboratory of Julius Wiesner (1838–1916) at the Polytechnical Institute in Vienna. While there, she made a discovery of paramount importance thus becoming a founder of the new science of physiological chemistry (now biochemistry). She stated that the process of fermentation is due to specific substances (unorganized enzymes) that could be isolated from yeast cells, but not the living yeast itself. These experiments contradicted with Louis Pasteur’s physiological theory of fermentation and confirmed the chemical nature of fermentation.

Alcohol fermentation process

Two decades later, an influential German chemist, Eduard Buchner (1860–1917), announced the same experimental results. Even though he was aware of Manasseina’s work, Buchner failed to make any reference to it. Manasseina attempted to stand up for her scientific priority but failed. She was not recognized as a pioneer of the chemical nature of fermentation while Buchner received the Nobel Prize in 1907, four years after her death, for the discovery of the chemical nature of fermentation.

After the publication of her paper on fermentation, Manasseina was invited to work in the Giessen laboratory of the great German chemist Justus Liebig (1803–1873), where she was able to pursue her career as a biochemist. However, due to family reasons, she could not accept Liebig’s invitation and had to return to St. Petersburg. After coming home, Maria Manasseina turned into a physiologist specialized in sleep science and began to work in the laboratory of professor Ivan Romanovich Tarkhanov, a friend of her husband Vyacheslav A. Manassein. In the late 1870s, due to their marital problems, Maria Manasseina left her husband for his friend Ivan Tarkhanov. However, their relationship did not last very long since the biographers of Tarkhanov wrote nothing about his scientific and personal relations with Manasseina.

Manasseina was an extremely diligent research all her life. She conducted various experiments humans and animals as well as wrote scientific papers, books, and a lot of abstracts for Russian medical journals.

References[edit | edit source]

M. Kovalzo, Vladimir. "Journal of the History of the Neurosciences." Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. 18.3 (2009): 312-19. Print.